Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Battles for Edmonton - Spruce Grove and Fort McMurray - Athabasca

Edmonton - Spruce Grove

Edmonton - Spruce Grove is one of the newest ridings in the country, formed in 2003 and first contested in 2004. Former Minister of the Environment Rona Ambrose is the incumbent. This West Edmonton riding voted PC earlier this year in Alberta's provincial election, and voter turn-out tends to be average, with 63% of electors casting ballots in 2006. Mainly suburban, the riding has supported Liberals as high as 25% in its short history, however Ambrose has little to worry about here.

Rona Ambrose (CPC) - Rona Ambrose is the popular incumbent for the riding, having held this seat for the Tories since 2004. Currently the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Rona's department is going to have a rather heated voicemail waiting for them from Ed Stelmach once the election's over, wanting to discuss the bitumen promise of this past week. Still under 40, Ambrose was the youngest woman ever appointed to the Federal Cabinet, and is a hugely important figure to the Conservative Party when it comes to their efforts to attract youth and women - 2 demographics that, historically, conservative parties have a hard time courting. Ambrose is going to win re-election here - the question is whether or not she'll be able to capture more than the 66% popular support she won in 2006. I say yes.

Chris Austin (Lib) - Chris Austin manages regional IT for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. A reservist Military Policeman, Austin is hoping to go from being one sort of MP to another... not too likely, but that's why they hold elections, instead of letting pundits decide who wins. The Liberals scored 16.8% of the popular vote here in 2006, however over 30% of eligible voters stayed home - voters who are the clear target of the Austin campaign. The fact that Austin is a serving reservist should play well in Edmonton, and it also speaks well to his ability to dedicate himself and persevere. As I've said before, Rona's pretty safe in this riding - but "extremely difficult" for the common person is very much achievable for the Canadian soldier.

Barb Phillips (NDP) - Barb Phillips is a dedicated community servant, having spent 20 years as a teacher before diving into the latest phase of her life, as a caregiver for adults with developmental disabilities. It is her hope to take that call to service to the next step, as a Member of Parliament. The small business owner and farmer also raises Golden Retrievers, and is a dangerous participant in local forums, as her Toastmasters qualification warns potential adversaries. The NDP's best result here was in 2006, with 10.5% - and with a weak national campaign for the Liberals, they've got a legitimate shot at 2nd place this time around.

Wendy Walker (Grn) - Born in Winnipeg, Wendy Walker's life story to this point reads like the ideal Green Party candidate. Having travelled Europe and Latin American for 7 years, Walker returned to advocate for the progression of arts-based education and cultural awareness in our schools. Heavily involved in local First Nations issues, Wendy is hoping to build on a 5.9% result for the Greens from 2006.

Take a look at: Rona Ambrose. Heavily (and unjustly, in my opinion) criticised for the Conservative Party's poor environmental position during her time as Environment Minister (it was the party's poorly developed policies that sunk her, not her own performance), Ambrose is anxious to get her star back on the rise within the party.

Fort McMurray - Athabasca

Fort McMurray - Athabasca is a geographically huge riding, taking up the North-Eastern corner of Alberta's electoral map. Home to a huge influx of workers from other provinces (as well as other countries), this riding is a study in contrasts: Home to roughnecks who are only around long enough to see their cheques clear, but also to multi-generational farmers, whose families have worked the land for a hundred years or more. This area boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in all of Alberta - but also, some of the most unsavoury. The environmental toll of the oilsands is very real, and there is a delicate 2-step that takes place in the public consciousness, between the economic heartbeat of the region and the long-term environmental impacts. Voter turn-out was under 50% here in 2006.

Brian Jean (CPC) - Incumbent Brian Jean has been the MP here since 2004, and won with nearly 65% of the popular vote in 2006. Interestingly, his is one of the few candidate websites for the Tories that doesn't include Stephen Harper's photo on the top banner. Hmmm... A life-long resident of Fort Mac, Jean has spent much of his time trying to focus on the issues of his own riding - the benefit to being a back-bencher. With little hope of that situation changing in the future, Jean will likely continue to be an active proponent of the area, stirring up a little trouble now and then for his constituents to see that he's still there, and otherwise staying out of the way.

John Webb (Lib) - A long-time lawyer and recent transplant to Fort Mac, Webb is trying to wrestle this riding away from the Tories. The low voter turn-out in 2006 gives the campaign something to hope for, but the reality of this riding is that the Green Shift proposed by Webb's political boss would absolutely cripple the local economy - and, while few in the area would argue that the local economy needs to be slowed down, that's a far cry from it being SHUT down. John will be lucky to hold onto 2nd place for the Liberals here.

Mark Voyageur (NDP) - Only very recently nominated to run here, Voyageur certainly has all of the best reasons to run. Claiming blood relation to "about 75% of Fort Chipewyan", Mark is employed in the oilpatch and dismisses claims that Jack Layton wants to shut down the oilsands, but clarifying that he just wants to "slow new development" until the effects of the developments on the Athabasca river basin can be determined. Recent polling has put Voyageur at 2nd place in this riding - a distant second, but still a moral victory for the NDP.

Dylan Richards (Grn) - Dylan Richards is a youth pastor at a church in Athabasca. The father of 2 is also an aficionado of "UtiliKilts", which I'd highly recommend. Late to the game, Richards stepped forward when it appeared as though the incumbent would be running virtually unopposed in the riding (which, luckily for democracy, ended up being FAR from the case). He takes his role as a mentor and community leader extremely seriously, and will certainly have some of the most devoted volunteers in the riding. The Greens scored less than 5% here in 2006, but may benefit from the bleeding off of Liberal voters.

Jacob Strydhorst (CHP) - Neerlandia-area farmer Jacob Strydhorst is carrying the banner for "the only Canadian pro-life, pro-family party". Strydhorst has run federally twice before in the riding of Yellowhead, most recently in 2004 when he received 721 votes for the Christian Heritage Party, for whom he is running again here. Strydhorst is a chorister, which usually plays well with The Enlightened Savage, but as a pluralist I've got natural misgivings about a party that promotes one particular faith-based world view over all others. BE whatever faith you want, but don't impose the moral edicts and teachings of your particular faith onto those who don't share it.

John Malcolm (FPP) - Interim Chief of the Wood Buffalo First Nations, John Malcolm is running to bring attention to "impact benefits". The candidate for the First Peoples National Party of Canada doesn't believe that shutting down the oilsands is a realistic goal, as he puts it "trapping is nice, but you can't make a living off it". Malcolm proposes a pipeline from Alberta to Ontario, where bitumen could be sent for refining - lessening the environmental load and labour shortage currently borne by Fort Mac, and keeping Alberta's bitumen in Canada.

Shawn Reimer (Ind.) - Shawn Reimer is an 18 year-old first-year college PoliSci student who wants to increase voter turn-out among youth. In this riding, increasing voter turn-out of ANY group is a good thing. The independent candidate lists his own policies on his website, so I'd encourage area voters to check him out - UNLIKE the major parties, who all subscribe to a set of policies that will determine their voting in the House of Commons, an Independent can vote they way his or her constituents direct them to. Reimer's policies aren't all going to be popular with Henry and Martha, but they're a statement of his principles, as a candidate - something most candidates never have to commit to, as they can hide behind "party policy". Reimer has the guts as an 18 year-old to take of the establishment, and commit himself in writing to a set of ideas - we need more Shawns in this election.

Take a look at: Shawn Reimer. He's an independent, beholden to no one except the people of the riding. He's got a better web presence than some of the minor parties (and some of the major party candidates), and he's got the best interests of the riding at heart. His policies, as I said, aren't all exactly "mainstream Alberta" - but many of them are worth a look.


Anonymous said...

"...the reality of this riding is that the Green Shift proposed by Webb's political boss would absolutely cripple the local economy - and, while few in the area would argue that the local economy needs to be slowed down, that's a far cry from it being SHUT down."

Just curious what you're basing that version of "reality" on. To date, I have yet to see much in the way of studies -- or even opinions -- to that effect (except, of course, for those coming from the Conservative war room).

Enlightened Savage said...

jk: Many of the players in the oilsands nerly shat themselves over the new royalty rates being brought in by the Alberta Tories.

If you asked those same players what the effect of a carbon tax, on TOP of the royalty increase, would be on their bottom line, I suspect you'd get a loud earful about their perception of that "reality". And since they're the ones who feed the local economy, it's a reality that they get to craft.

Anonymous said...

I think you're giving Brian Jean too much credit here. We are talking about someone who said that the Greens were not going to run against him because "everyone knows he's an environmentalist". Right.... That might work on the young girls in Ottawa BJ, but here in the real world...

Man, with Guy Boutilier and BJ, Fort Mac is so well represented.

Anonymous said...

ES: Actually, oil companies don't get to craft reality, at least in a regulatory sense -- governments do. Of course they're going be upset about any sort of tax or royalty increase that affects their ability to earn profits, regardless of if it's in the best interests of society or not. That's what they're supposed to do.

What I was asking you is if you had any objective evidence that the Green Shift would "absolutely cripple" or "shut down" Fort McMurray's economy, because I have yet to see any.

I find it ironic that there are so many people in Alberta who will go on and on about the ingenuity and resolve of oilsands producers and laud them for all of the hurdles they've overcome, but feel the need to coddle and protect these same companies when the discussion of regulating them comes up. They seem to think these companies can do anything in the world -- except deal with a gradually-imposed tax that will be at least partially offset by a corporate tax cut!

I, for one, believe that these companies are capable of rising to the challenge, just as they have in the past. Let's have some faith in their ability to adapt their businesses, and let the market do its work.

Brennan C. said...

Good morning, Enlightened Savage,

My name is Brennan Conroy, and I'm a member of the Shawn Reimer campaign staff.

Part of how we measure our sucess is how many times Shawn's name shows up in Google. We did that search today, and on behalf of Shawn and the rest of the team, I'd like to thank you for this writeup. We enjoyed your refreshing perspective on our campaign.

Overall, it's uplifting to know that people are writing about us at all. : )

Thanks again,

Brennan Conroy
Deputy Official Agent and Deputy Campaign Manager to the campaign to elect Shawn Reimer in Fort McMurray - Athabasca