Sunday, March 2, 2008

Your 5-and-a-half Minute Election Primer

Just a quick note... The "Flagship Policies" I list aren't necessarily the most important policies of a party, but rather the policies they are proposing that are the most identifiable as "THEIRS" - none of the other parties is proposing anything similar. Many party policies are just re-wordings of another party's idea, with a different dollar figure or time-frame attached. These "Flagship Policies" are truly unique to the party in question.

Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta

Leader: Ed Stelmach

Official Campaign Slogan: "Change That Works For Albertans"

Unofficial Campaign Slogan: "We've Done More In 14 Months Than In Ralph's Last 5 Years!"

Flagship Policies: Healthcare High Schools; Attract Foreign Workers; Implement 20-year strategic infrastructure building plan; Establish Energy Efficiency Act; Integrated Land Use Management Plan

Candidates: 83 (66 Male, 17 Female)

One Good Reason To Vote For: Alberta is the envy of the nation, economically - thanks in large part to 37 years of Tory government.

One Good Reason To Vote Against: 12 hours of excruciating pain sitting in an E.R. waiting room.

Possible Leadership Successors: Dave Hancock; Ted Morton; The Enlightened Savage.

E.S. Says: The people keep finding reasons to vote PC - usually, by looking at our neighbouring provinces. If you like the way Alberta is today, you have the PC governments of Lougheed, Getty, Klein and Stelmach to thank for much of it. We've got room to improve, though - and Ed wants you to let him keep at it. The past 14 months have been radically different than Klein's long goodbye - in a lot of very good ways. Spending is at unsustainable levels, but so is inflation. We could get away with spending like Nova Scotia only if we could get roads built for the Nova Scotia price... it's the price we pay for a hot economy.

Alberta Liberal Party

Leader: Kevin Taft

Official Campaign Slogan: "It's Time"

Unofficial Campaign Slogan: "37 Years? Are You People %&@#ing STUPID?!?"

Flagship Policies: Re-regulate Electricity Utilities; Public Pharmacare; Absolute Cap on Greenhouse Gases within 5 years; Increase Oilsands Royalty Rates; Retire the Infrastructure Debt (build everything that needs to be built - cost pegged at 8 to 10 $Billion, IF you can find workers) by 2014

Candidates: 82 (60 Male, 22 Female)

One Good Reason To Vote For: A different perspective sometimes offers previously unconsidered solutions, and the Liberals have been working on new ideas they've been waiting to implement since the end of World War I.

One Good Reason To Vote Against: If the economy goes into the toilet as result of further Royalty tinkering, how do they PAY for all these promises - that are linked directly to resource revenue?

Possible Leadership Successors: Dave Bronconnier; Dave Taylor; The Enlightened Savage's Cousin.

E.S. Says: The Liberals would be a much bigger threat to the Tories with a name change, a leader from Calgary, or both. They WILL make gains on Monday, but will they make enough gains, and hold their Edmonton turf enough, to win? The Liberals have some very good policy ideas, that should be adopted no matter who wins. However, their math makes me very nervous - further tinkering with the Royalty regime will bring enough uncertainty to the oilpatch that companies will pack up and leave - how many, no one can predict. Losing that revenue, where will we find the money to implement many of these great polices? Taft says he'll find nearly $2 Billion in inefficiencies in the current government - cutting government jobs and programs to create other government jobs and programs? Also, why is it that so many Liberal candidates look so much older than their PC counterparts? Either the PC's are investing in BoTox, or the Liberals have replaced them as the "Old Person's Party".

New Democratic Party of Alberta

Leader: Brian Mason

Official Campaign Slogan: "On Your Side"

Unofficial Campaign Slogan: "Liberal, Tory, Same Old Story..."

Flagship Policies: Public auto insurance; Hike Energy Royalties by 60%; Legislate full disclosure of donations and donation limits for all Leadership and nomination races; Cut university tuition to 1999-2000 levels

Candidates: 83 (50 Male, 33 Female)

One Good Reason To Vote For: Democratic reform platform, although not extensive enough, is a good start.

One Good Reason To Vote Against: Their own costing of their promises indicates we'll be within 2 to 3 Billion of running a deficit - if revenues go down (which I suspect they will with their proposed 60% hike in Royalties), we will be back in "Getty-berta", borrowing to pay for the essentials.

Possible Leadership Successors: Rachel Notley

E.S. Says: Mason and the NDP have provided a voice of reason and sober second thought in the mostly dogmatic tiffs between the Liberals and the Tories over what direction to take the province in... they've been like a provincial Senate. However, when looking at their website, a few things are noticeable: Firstly, their full policy document is impossible to find. As in, I'm not sure they've got one - which is a bit worrisome, 19 hours from when the polls open. Secondly, every time you DO look at a policy statement or promise, the page is 75% full of criticisms of the Liberals and Tories, with a paragraph underneath stating their own policy. This is in contrast to their record of offering constructive alternatives rather than attacking out of spite or dogmatic compulsion - and I'm not sure I like the contrast.

Wildrose Alliance Party

Leader: Paul Hinman

Official Campaign Slogan: "Today. Tomorrow. Together."

Unofficial Campaign Slogan: "We Love That Word Re-FOOOOOOOOOORM!"

Flagship Policies: Introduce competition to the Health system; Limit Premiers to two 4-year terms; Privatize Crown Corporations; Establish Alberta Provincial Police force

Candidates: 61 (54 Male, 7 Female)

One Good Reason To Vote For: In the debate, Hinman mused about refunding the past several years worth of Healthcare Premiums to Albertans... Yes, please.

One Good Reason To Vote Against: They're running on a "policies may not be exactly as shown" platform, having made it perfectly clear that the party's policies will change once they hold their first AGM, likely by June. If they're in government when those old Alberta Alliance policies get changed by the membership-at-large (which will include people of many political stripes, including some on the left - how many, no one can say), then you voted for something that they may never do... and giving a party a mandate without set policies is dangerous - since stacking an AGM to sway the governing party's policies isn't as hard as it sounds, especially if the party is new. What if you vote for them on Monday after praying to Saint Preston, and the new members and Wildrose gang jerk the party so far to the Left in June that they more closely resemble the Liberals? Can't take your vote back...

Possible Leadership Successors: Ted Morton, Lyle Oberg, Randy Thorsteinson (it's the only one left he's never led!)

E.S. Says: The electoral reform policies of this party are only going to get better once the Wildrose influence kicks in at their AGM in June - and they're badly needed. 4 years from now, if significant and sweeping changes haven't taken place in the area of electoral reform and transparency, or spending hasn`t been reigned in, these guys will be a HUGE threat to the party in power. As it stands, there's still a little too much "Alberta Alliance" in the policies for most Albertans' taste - and, of course, there's the above-mentioned issue of upcoming changes to the party's platform and policies. The truth is, electing the Wildrose Alliance to govern right now is akin to writing a blank cheque - something us Albertans are loathe to do. They deserve a soap-box in the Legislature to push the electoral reform agenda, though, and keep the government to account on frivolous spending, so I hope they win 3 to 5 seats. A little competition on the right over the next 4 years would keep the PC's from getting too comfortable, and competition breeds excellence. :)

Alberta Greens

Leader: George Read

Official Campaign Slogan: none

Unofficial Campaign Slogan: "Evolve or Die!"

Flagship Policies: Integrate rural and urban transportation hubs; high-speed rail link between Calgary and Edmonton; Paid tuition for health-care workers who agree to stay in Alberta for 7 years; Commitment to having the lowest post-secondary tuitions in Canada

Candidates: 79 (52 Male, 27 Female)

One Good Reason To Vote For: Sustainability is going to become a HUGE issue for this province, both environmentally and economically - neither the Oil NOR the fresh water NOR the forestry industry is going to last forever, at current rates of consumption. The Greens want us to start addressing that issue NOW, clean up our act and diversify our economy instead of trying to come up with some half-cocked plan after it's already too late to do anything about it.

One Good Reason To Vote Against: Our current economy is driven by Oil and Gas, and transitioning to a new base is going to leave us economically vulnerable in the short term.

Possible Leadership Successors: Fred Clemens, Mark McGillvray, David Suzuki (if he'd lower himself to a mere provincial post), Leah Lawrence (she'd be awesome, if she ever left the PC's...)

E.S. Says: We need Greens in the Legislature. Clearly, lost amid all the back-and-forth posturing is the fact that we're doing 180 kph on the autobahn, fighting over the steering wheel, but the bridge is out ahead. We either need to get off this road or we're going off the cliff - the Greens want us to turn the wheel before it's too late. Whether it's one, or two or three, we need their voices in the Leg - plus, getting an elected Green means that Albertans will actually get a chance to hear the Leader of the Alberta Greens in the next televised debate (in 4 years). For a party with perhaps the most important message of all to continue to be shut out of these debates isn't just disheartening - it's borderline irresponsible.

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