Thursday, January 31, 2008

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie...


"One who can't change his mind and won't change the subject"

-Winston Churchill

Nation, I've been making a concerted effort to avoid giving undue coverage to the small band of self-styled "outlaws" who, in typical scaramouche fashion (you thought it was a throw-away lyric from Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody", didn't you?), have taken it upon themselves to try and highjack the public consciousness ahead of the upcoming provincial election.

With a never-ending stream of badly-worded press releases, legal threats, and desperate media-grabbing stunts, this group has managed to join, obtain board positions, alienate, be denied nominations, poison, leave, join, be denied board positions, and be denied nominations in 2 different political parties, all within the space of the past 6 months. Most of it in the past TWO months. It's the equivalent of being jilted at the altar, and proposing to someone else a few months later.

Even in my prime, I didn't get around that fast.

(author's note: thank god my fiancee hates politics, and doesn't read this blog)

Like the bully at school with the bad body odour, they sit wherever they want in the lunch room, and nobody tells them that they can't - but everyone seems to be drawing the line at calling them "friends". So, just like that school-yard bully, their first impulse is to attack when rejected.

"Screw you guys, I never wanted to hang out with you guys anyway - you're a bunch of snobby jerks who don't respect democracy!" screams the bully at one group that rejects him, proceeding to go home and cry before coming back to school and finding a new kid to threaten if he's the "wrong shade of blue". (update: the bully has now decided to try and kiss up to the new kid at school, who has privately suggested he's not really all that interested in the bully's overtures of friendship, based on his history - we'll see how that goes)

Similar stunts and veins have involved claiming to be "democratically elected" (a turn of phrase that djkelly quite handily refutes), claiming to be a victim of "Christophobia" (the victimizers: almost exclusively baptized Christians, which is odd...), and claims of being denied his RIGHT to represent the party (as I look through the Charter, which hurts as I'm as anti-Trudeau as someone born in 1978 could be... I'm not seeing the "right to run under the banner of, and destroy the reputation of, any political party whose local constituency board and nomination meeting you can sufficiently stack" - but I'll keep looking...).

The media have, for the most part, caught on and have been giving this group as little coverage as possible, considering the noise they've been making.

And then, just yesterday, as the Premier of Alberta is making yet another in a long list of pre-election spending promises, one of the "big wheels" of this group gets up to the mic, and asks a question that sounds much more like a campaign ad than it does a question for serious debate. If we had American campaign laws, the questions would have been followed by a taped, cheerful "I'm Darth Vader, and I approved this question..."

Then another.

Then another.

One wonders how receptive the room would have been if, rather than identifying himself as a member of the Regressive Group for Whatchyamacallit, the questioner had identified himself by his most relevant credential, considering the context of the question: "My name is Grand Moff Tarkin, campaign manager for the independent candidate I'm about to name in my question, and I was wondering..."

On the heels of this attempted high-jacking comes a press release, stating in part:
"... the Premier needs to apologize to me or I willl address this with him personally at the next opportunity that arises and it will be in a very public manner." (playing the classic "bully" role - it must have been hard to delete that "or else"...)

The release then goes on to state:
"... campaign team has vowed to insure that any event the Premier will attend in Calgary and area will have... supporters reminding voters that Ed Stelmach does not believe in democracy."

Wonderful. So, in an election to determine Alberta's future, the small-minded folks who just can't get over being jilted in a PARTY NOMINATION RACE are going to high-jack the debate, and instead of talking about royalties, health care, education, and the environment, we'll be forced to listen to a group of fanatics chanting and trying to get on a microphone, to "get back at the premier", and embarass him for rejecting their buddy? THIS is how these people plan to elevate the debate, and improve Alberta? By making a provincial election take a back seat to a squabble over a local party nomination? It's like breaking up an acquaintance's wedding ceremony because he stole your girlfriend in 8th grade.

Ed's not the one who should be embarassed.

Gang, this is not how we do things here in Alberta, or Canada. We don't stack meetings with supporters, holding scripted or pre-approved questions meant to embarass the speaker, and promote his opponent.

Although... wait... something seems eerily similar about the approach...

Seems like I've heard of this approach being used somewhere before...

There you have it, Egmont... the political role model for your independent candidate.

* * *

Nation, I'll be attending the function at The Garage at Eau Claire this afternoon... I'll personally buy a beer for the first person who comes up to me and accuses me of being "The Enlightened Savage" - in a quiet voice, of course. ;)

And "Anonymous" - you're not eligible. I owe you a beer anyway. :)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Alberta Liberals: Yesterday's Opposition, hoping to be Tomorrow's Government

The Alberta Liberals have been Her Majesty's Official Opposition for a long, long time. They have served in that capacity uninterrupted since 1993 (from 1982-1993, the NDP was the Official Opposition, and the Liberals were a non-factor), and have the distinction being the only political party to serve as the Official Opposition to the UFA (1921 to 1935), Social Credit (1935 to 1967, when the PC's became the Official Opposition) AND the PC dynasties. The Liberals last sat on the benches of power in this province in 1921. Even the most basic understanding of our province's political history leads one to recall that no party has ever been returned to government once being shown the door by Alberta voters.

That was then, this is now.

As I said, the Liberals have been the Official Opposition for 14+ consecutive years now. Altogether, in Alberta's 102 year history, the Alberta Liberals have been the Official Opposition for 60 years. Something interesting began happening though, about 4 or 5 months ago... they started getting GOOD at it.

Many parties in opposition (the pre-Taft Liberals were no exception) make the mistake of taking their title too literally: "My job as the opposition is to oppose. If the government says the sky is blue, I must argue that it's mauve." The function of the Opposition in our system of government is to amend, moderate, propose alternatives, and ensure that the government never forgets that, although they received more votes than anyone else, there were a lot of votes cast that were NOT in favour of the governing party or its policies - and those citizens aren't necessarily all morons or "undergraduates" (thanks, Ralph...).

Of late, the Alberta Liberals have shifted from the party of contrarianism, trotting out dogmatic opposition to anything the government says or does, to the party of constructive debate ("we like this plan's intent, but you'll notice in your press package we're releasing a plan of our own, which we think is better in several key areas...". The sad political reality is that this is probably timed to coincide with the election. If, in fact, it is evidence of a philosophical shift in the Liberals towards constructive opposition, this is a very important step indeed. The unfortunate truth is that most opposition parties only show their hand come election time - "This is what we propose, this is what we think should be adopted as public policy - remember that when you vote in a month". Much MORE helpful to our democratic society would be a continuous stream of suggestions, alternative proposals, and the like coming from Opposition benches that, rather than trying simply to insult or embarrass the government, or push a particular dogmatic view of the world based on the over-simplified "political spectrum", could be used to strengthen policy and laws, for the benefit of all. A government based on coalition and pooling of ideologies and talents, rather than an adversarial "you have power but we want it, so screw you and your party, the worse things get around here, the better it will be for us come election time" style of government versus opposition parry-and-thrust we experience today.

As I said, the Liberals, smelling election, have begun unveiling planks of their election platform. Today, we're going to take a look at what the Liberals have done in the past while, what they say they stand for, and how they'll fare come election time.

In The Past 4 Years...

The Alberta Liberals more than doubled their seat total from 2001, with 16 elected members in the 2004 General Election, and a big win in Calgary Elbow in the recent by election there. With 4 sitting members in Calgary (formerly known as "Fortress Tory"), the Liberals are well-poised to capitalize on feelings of discontent with the provincial government within the city. Fundraising, long this party's greatest weakness, started to become a little less of a monumental concern, as potential donors realized that they may be donating to a party with a puncher's chance of forming government, rather than spending perpetuity as the Opposition.

The Liberals led the charge for more affordable housing and rent controls, as the cost of living in the Greater Calgary and Greater Edmonton areas skyrocketed to keep pace with the economy. Taft wrote a largely ignored book titled "Democracy Derailed", which outlined why the Tories, in Taft's professorial opinion, didn't deserve the reigns of power any longer. He also challenged newly-elected PC Leader and Premier Ed Stelmach to a public debate about the housing crisis, but was turned down. The Liberals demanded that the new royalty regime include a 20% hike to the royalties paid by producers to provincial coffers.

The Western Tiger

In September of 2007, leader Kevin Taft unveiled what he described as a "complete re-think" of the Albertans and Western Canadian economy, the blueprint for which he named "The Western Tiger", after the Asian Tiger economic model of intergovernmental and cross-jurisdictional planning that worked so well in Eastern Asia in the 1970's.

Taft feels (rightly, in my opinion) that Albertans have become complacent and casual about the economy: "We've got the oil, we'll be fine". He argues that "good enough" doesn't cut it, and that many of the problems facing Alberta today - problems requiring millions and billions of dollars to address - could be dealt with if we seized the opportunity with which we are presented: A huge deposit of oil, in a "Western-friendly" part of the world, with crude pushing (now past) $100 a barrel, in a world where the price of oil is rising and alternative fuels have not yet taken over (they will - make no mistake. In my lifetime, Alberta's oil deposits will be met with a shrug and a "so what? nobody uses that stuff anymore").

The Alberta Liberals propose an economic co-prosperity sphere, where planning and resources are shared between all of the Western Provinces, so that rather than the largest chunk of economic pressure - and therefore inflation - being Alberta's blessing-and-burden alone, we spread it around.

Sure, it's nice to have the fastest growing economy in the western world. But if you can't get a plumber because he's working on the rigs, and you pay 5 times what your cousin in Regina pays for a plumber when you CAN find one, what do you care that the province can afford more roads? For that matter, think of how many roads the province could build if construction companies weren't so booked up that labour was costing double the normal rate? Wait for it... do the math... that's right. If we spend HALF the money, but the costs reduce by HALF, then we get ALL the stuff we would have gotten - minus the pollution and inflation, I mean. :)

Specifically, Taft mentions the process of upgrading Alberta bitumen - a task currently being performed in the United States to a large degree. He suggests that if processors in Alberta, BC, Saskatchewan, or Manitoba were to do the work, that would pay dividends of $600 Million per year in provincial and federal taxes, not to mention the economic impact of jobs, construction, etc. in the communities hosting the processors. More basic math, kids... if we help Manitoba make $200 Million more next year in provincial taxes... then when the time comes to scratch that equalization cheque, we'll be paying Manitoba... $200 Million LESS. A strong Manitoba, or Saskatchewan, helps make a strong Alberta. And this would cost us nothing - we're not doing the work anyway. We're just making sure (HOW, I'm not certain, and Taft's plan doesn't go into that detail) that the work is being done in Saskatoon instead of Texas.

Go to the Liberal website and see the speech for yourself. The video is sketchy, but the biggest problem isn't the camera work, it's the delivery of Taft himself. He's speaking to a room full of business people and Rotarians, and it seems like he's addressing a classroom of grade 10 students. Taft MUST put some serious space between the quality of his public speaking and the Premier's if he hopes to win the upcoming election.

What Do They Stand For?

For a full list, unfiltered by the Enlightened Savage, go here.

Still with me? Good. Here's a list of policies and initiatives backed by the Alberta Liberals.

  • Fixed Election Dates
  • Citizen's Assembly on Electoral Reform
  • Toughen lobbyist registry and conflict of interest rules (not exactly an issue that has Henry and Martha storming the Legislature gates, but whatever...)
  • Strengthen the Auditor General’s role
  • Reduce corporate and union donations to political parties to a maximum of $5,000 annually
  • Create a $500 Million endowment fund for the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Create Post-Secondary Endowment, to be allotted 25% of the nearly one-third of non-renewable resource revenues that would be set aside each year for savings and investment.
  • Elimination of School Fees for K-12, to be replaced by adequate gov't funding
  • Reduce greenhouse gases within five years through carbon sequestration
  • Harness wind and other zero emissions sources to produce enough electricity for every home and farm in Alberta within 10 years
  • Replace the natural gas rebate program with a program to help Albertans retrofit their homes to make them more energy efficient
  • Build affordable and energy efficient public transit, including funding new LRT lines and a high speed rail link down the QEII corridor (E.S. note - YEAH! I can go to Oilers games again!).
  • Protect in-stream flows before allocating any excess
  • Meter all connections to public water supplies to encourage water conservation
  • End the use of fresh water for oil well injection
  • Prohibit bulk sales of Alberta water
  • Establish an independent public inquiry, including an intensive audit, into the operations of the WCB.
  • Increase the number of child care spaces
  • Improve the stability and quality of the child care work force.
  • Relax restrictions on maternity and paternity leave in Alberta.
  • Encourage a more competitive, home-grown meat-packing industry
  • Implement strategies to address shortages of physicians and other health care professionals in rural areas.
  • Build the Heritage Fund to level that generated a constant (and growing) source of revenue outside of the tax base within 20 years
  • Re-regulate the electricity industry
  • Actively promote energy conservation, and encourage electricity generation from renewable resources and alternative energy sources.
  • Open more community health centres for non-life threatening health matters
  • Develop comprehensive incentives to attract and retain rural physicians
  • Set-up specialized surgical centres to reduce wait times
  • Emphasize education to improve wellness in communities and at home (E.S. note - anyone out there unclear on the fact that smoking causes cancer, and Big Macs will kill you? Didn't think so - education isn't the answer, we're already educated - making it easier for us to make healthy choices is the $70,000 Question...)
  • Submit the minimum wage rate to an annual review (E.S. note - does this mean in some years, minimum wage will get LOWER?)
  • Expand the range of tax tools available to municipalities (We pay more taxes, but it's the fault of the municipalities, so let THEM take the fall... good politics.)
  • Eliminate health care premiums
  • Cut a third right off the top of annual resource revenue, to be divided as follows:
    35 per cent in the Heritage Fund, 25 per cent in an Infrastructure Fund,
    35 per cent to create a Post Secondary Education Endowment,
    5 per cent to a Humanities, Social Sciences and Arts Endowment

How Will They Fare?

The policies above, championed by "The Progressive Party of Alberta", or "The Alberta Party", would stand a very decent chance of capturing the imagination of the public, and possibly winning an election.
The millstone around the neck of this party is their brand: "Liberal". With a capital "L". Like Trudeau. Any seats that the Liberals win in this province are DESPITE the brand, not because of it - and that's unlikely to change.

That said, the Alberta Liberals are well-positioned for this campaign. Stelmach is taking public blows from union groups, Team Taft has their fundraising ducks in a row, their policies are solid, and the appetite in North American politics these days seems to be for "change". They have a beach-head in Calgary, Edmonton remains strong traditional Liberal territory (although a Northern premier like Ed could do some damage to Redmonton's Liberal leanings), and a new party with some media-savvy has sprung up on the right to challenge the Tories in the rural south. It has all the makings of a perfect storm - one that could sweep the Liberals to power - or very near to it, at any rate.

If the Liberals continue to get their message out, Taft keeps control of his message and focuses on his platform instead of the Tories, and Tory voters stay home for whatever reason, the Liberals stand an excellent chance of meeting, or beating, their modern-era high of 32 seats.

What They Need To Do

1. Focus on the platform - screaming about Ed or Ralph or the Tories will remind voters of Nancy MacBeth - NOT a good thing.

2. Keep Taft front and centre - Dave Taylor is too acerbic for a "message of hope and change". Let Taylor, Taft's top lieutenant, criticize the Tories after the election. To capture the imaginations of Albertans, you don't have to tell them that their lives are horrible, you need to tell them how you're going to make them BETTER. Not better than the other guy will - just better, overall. Leave the other guy out of it.

3. Abandon the hope of attracting the left-wing vote. Voters who support the NDP aren't your ticket to power in Alberta, it's voters who support the Tories. Capture an NDP voter, you've gained 1 vote's worth of ground. If you convince a Tory voter to stay home, you've gained 1 vote's worth of ground. If you convince a Tory voter to vote for YOU, though, you've gained TWO vote's worth of ground - the vote the Tories lost, and the vote you gained.

4. Make the campaign about YOU - Day 1: Here's our plan for infrastructure. Day 2: Here's our plan for education. Et cetera... if the press ask you about the Tory plan for the environment, shrug off the question as meaningless - "it's yesterday's plan to address yesterday's problems in yesterday's Alberta... I'm here to talk about Alberta's future...".

5. Keep using Youtube, Facebook, etc. as well as you have been. Many people have eschewed traditional media for political information, due to a perception of bias. The unfiltered nature of the 'net and blogs gives you a chance to get your message out, and the public WILL take advantage. Buy from daveberta.

6. Seriously - consider a name change. Your brand isn't helping you.

So, let's break this all down. Nation: CAN the Liberals win this election? Yes, they can. WILL they win? Probably not. Will they do better than in 2004? Without a doubt.

SHOULD they win? You decide that for yourself...

More information on the Alberta Liberals is available at their website, here.

Friday, January 25, 2008


For Immediate Release
Stardate 0080125.11


(Calgary, AB) Local uber-pundit and universally lauded Citizen Journalist "The Enlightened Savage" is decrying the failure of the democratic process in the recent first-round voting for the Canadian Blog Awards.

"This shows a blatant disregard on the part of Saskboy and other green-clad, banjo-picking elites for the rule of law, the democratic process and common sense!" shouted The Enlightened One, utilising exclamation points in his press release despite all media protocol and over a hundred years of precedent to show just how much he means business - just like a notable independent candidate for the provincial seat of Calgary Egmont.

"I mean, sure I didn't get as many votes as the other candidates in the categories for which I was nominated - but that just goes to show the notorious liberal bias of both the blogosphere, and of reality in general! Had I been allowed to set up an office where I could bus my supporters to, and have them vote - with the assistance of my staff, not supervision - from our campaign computers, we would surely have won, as nature and God Herself intended... but that darn 'one IP address, one vote' policy sunk us."

The Enlightened Savage, or "The Sensei of Smack", as his followers have dubbed him, had been nominated in the categories of Best New Blog, Best Political Blog, and Best Blog.

"I guess it's possible that people genuinely voted for the blogs that they felt were the best." conceded the magnanimous blogger with buns of steel. "However, many of those same people made Britney Spears a multi-platinum selling singer, so what do they know anyhow? Time will prove me right..."

The voting for the second round of the Canadian Blog Awards has begun, and will continue until January 30th, 2008. FOES (Friends Of the Enlightened Savage) still in the running include daveberta (Best Blog, Best Blogosphere Citizen, Best Political Blog, and Best Progressive Blog), and Calgary Grit (Best Political Blog, Best Progressive Blog). The Enlightened Savage, in the spirit of bipartisan cooperation and unity that will surely result in his canonization as a Saint in his lifetime, is throwing his considerable support and the support of his millions of slavishly-devoted citizens of "E.S. Nation" behind the 2 FOES.

"It's cute that they let daveberta and Calgary Grit call themselves 'progressive', and I think that we should get behind these 2 unrepentant lefties and let them experience what it's like to win an election - it'll be a long time before either of them feels that way again" said the Poobah of the Paragraph, adding "I'll be rooting for them this time, but you'd better believe I'll be expecting their full endorsement in next year's voting".

The Enlightened Savage, Lord and Master of the Dangling Participle, is available for comment at amishbuggyracing (at)

[remove tongue from cheek]

Congratulations to daveberta and Calgary Grit for moving on to the Finals, and many thanks to everyone involved in the CBA's - but especially Saskboy - for the incredible amount of work they're putting in, for very little thanks. It was truly an honour to be nominated, and the highlight of my blogging career thus far. Bravo!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What Calgarians can't afford to let slide until the next municipal election, part 2: Transit and Public Safety

"Perception is nine tenths of a person's reality..."
- Mrs. Wilkinson, my Jr. High school Art teacher

Nation, even as the city of Calgary goes through the machinations of a Calgary Transit safety audit, the tall foreheads both elected and appointed are going out of their way to tell us what they're going to find. "Transit is safe!" they declare - which I thought was why we were spending money having the system audited. The problem, which most of these bureaucrats and elected officials seem to miss, is that the citizens of this city don't FEEL that the system is safe, and all platitudes to the contrary aren't going to change that fact - especially in light of tragic events of the past few days. Only action will.

City council has made no effort to hide the fact that it is their intention to get Calgarians to ride the rails and buses in this city, and eschew use of their cars when possible. Notably, most Aldermen drive to City Hall every day for work, even though there is a C-train station right there. Hmmm... Approved plans for buildings in the downtown core leave far less space for parking than would have been required years ago, parking rates continue to skyrocket, the one-way maze of streets and closures in the downtown core is harder to navigate than ever before...

"Take transit, it's faster than driving!" they tell us, earning snorts of derision from anyone who's had to wait for a bus that's 25 minutes late, or wait 4 trains before finding one that isn't packed full well before it arrives at Chinook Station, in minus 25 degree weather.

"Take transit, it's affordable!" they argue, as the monthly pass goes up to $75 (at least the feds give transit users a tax credit now).

"Take transit, it's better for the environment!" they cry, ignoring the fact that ecofriendly or not, most Calgarians are disinclined to spend time in freezing cold or sweltering heat on a city bus in the name of the environment, packed in like sardines (unless they work the 2-8 shift).

But for many Calgarians, what keeps them off of the Transit bandwagon isn't the cost, or the inconvenience, or the poor service... it's the PERCEPTION of a lack of safety. Long-time locals tell their new neighbours or co-workers, just arrived from out of town: "Don't take transit, it's not safe!"

Anyone who's sat alone on a mostly empty C-train after dark has done the same thing - look surreptitiously at the other passengers, trying to figure out whether they're a possible threat or not. The half passed-out drunk 2 seats down and across the aisle? The 3 teen-aged boys dressed in full wanna-G attire? The 5 young adults in full goth regalia dropping 'F bombs' every other word?

Calgary Transit dealt with this issue, they say, by installing "HELP" buttons on every car of the train, and every platform. Pressing the HELP button will put you in touch with the driver of the train, or with Transit's security office. Neither of whom can help you as you're being beaten or rolled for your wallet - but they can listen to it happen. So, Transit further showed their concern for public safety by installing cameras on the system - of course, we still can't help you stop from being mugged or raped, but now we'll have fuzzy images of the perpetrators to print in the newspaper. Fantastic - now I feel VERY comfortable putting my fiancee on the train.

Just for the record, I am over 6 feet tall, and pushing 245 pounds. I am by NO means a small guy - and many of the people on transit intimidate the heck out of me. How is my 5'4" (and three quarters, she insists) fiancee supposed to feel remotely safe in the same circumstances?

Nation, this speaks to a larger problem with the system - lack of manpower. Calgary Transit HAS security, but how often do you see them? Even when you DO see them, how effective can they be? Their presence stops petty vandalism and harassment, but as soon as they get off at the next platform, having checked everyone's ticket, you're back to square one again. We need a way to make people feel safe - if they PERCEIVE the system as safe, then the battle's already won.

The best part about this is, we can kill 2 birds with one stone.

It's a cliche because it's true: "There's never a cop around when you need one". Sure, when you had your fender-bender on MacLeod Trail at 2 in the afternoon, 3 cruisers responded within 4 minutes. But if there's someone walking just a little too closely behind you at 11 pm on your way home from Canyon Meadows station on a Friday night, what are you going to do about it? Call 911, and be told that your discomfort isn't an emergency, and to call the regular police number. So you do, after normal business hours on a Friday, and it takes 9 minutes to speak to a real human being - 9 minutes too long, when you feel threatened. By the time an officer comes on the line with you, your phone could be sitting open in a ravine, with no sign of you. Ever.

More and more, this is what Calgary has descended into - we don't feel safe. We don't feel protected from the criminal elements in our city. We don't feel as though anyone's going to be there to help us. We know the police are out there, SOMEWHERE... but we can't find them, we can't contact them, and as such, they can't help us.

This is NOT the fault of the Calgary Police Service... although some decisions made by the top brass are questionable (closing the Riverbend office at 6 pm on a Friday? Good idea - why would anyone need the police in Riverbend after dinner on a Friday?), for the most part they're doing the best with what they have. What they NEED is more - more officers, and more money. Calgary City Council, the government of Alberta, and the government of Canada all need to step up to the plate and ensure that the citizens of Calgary feel safe and protected - and the feds only get involved because this involves transit security, which is one of Stock Day's big issues.

Here's the plan:

2 Calgary Police Service Officers, fully trained and prepared, assigned to a stationary location (office, broom closet, kiosk) at every C-train platform. 24 hours a day (not consecutive - we're talking 3, 8-hours shifts of 2 officers per shift).




Every day.

Put up giant signs that tell you where to go for the police. Make sure that, even if one officer is strolling the platform or using the biffy, that there is always someone at that desk or window. Someone with a badge. A gun. And, most importantly of all, a radio.

Anyone out there in the E.S. Nation think that a police officer has to wait 9 minutes to talk to dispatch if they radio in a problem?

Didn't think so.

Now, this deals with both problems I mentioned above. For starters, it makes transit users feel safe. It lets Calgary Transit place its officers on the trains and buses, because they know the stations are covered, which makes people feel better ON the trains because Transit officers are there. And once people get OFF the train, as they're headed on their way, if they feel at all uncomfortable, they can follow the signs to find real, live, police officers who can deal with the problem, or alleviate their concerns. ALSO, it means that if someone feels a need for a police officer's attention or assistance, they KNOW WHERE TO FIND ONE - at the C-Train station. 24 hours a day. And from there, the officer can consult with their partner, call in to HQ and decide what needs to be done from there. The public in general feels better served and safer. You can't do this by stationing transit officers in these stations - how are they going to help you? By calling the REAL police. Better to cut out the middle-man, and have the real police THERE, don't you think?

And this NEEDS to be a 24-hour thing. You can't power-walk to the police kiosk at Banff Trail station only to find a "Closed until 7 am" sign... that won't do you a hell of a lot of good as a 130-pound woman with the 3 200+ pound guys following you. Likewise, having officers at Marlborough station doesn't do you any good if you're frightened and at Rundle station - by the time the police can get to you, you and your problem are long gone - and possibly, to the same place. That's the way the system "ensures our safety" at present - with transit officers 3 stations away from you checking everyone's transfer ticket, and someone sitting in front of a video screen downtown or at Anderson station watching 3 platform fights while you hit the HELP button and pray that help can get to you before the thugs at the other end of the train do.

Now, I'm not foolish enough to think that this is going to happen. Even if it's the greatest idea in the world, it's bloody expensive. Calgary has, at present, 38 C-train stations. It will cost taxpayers 1,824 man-hours per day to make this happen... 665,760 hours per year, or the equivalent of 320 full-time officers (an increase in the CPS of 20%, when they can barely meet their minimum number of qualified officers at present) - at a cost of approximately $16.64 Million, plus training costs and infrastructure (a boost to the police budget of approximately 6.8%). I don't know how to pay for that, or I would have run for mayor last October. $16 per person on their tax bill? A fare increase on Transit buses and trains of 15 cents per rider? Both would cover the cost of those officers... Maybe some of column A, some of column B... But the bottom line is, it would make our transit system, and our city, safer.

It would make our citizens FEEL safer.

And perception is nine tenths of their reality.

- E.S.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Re-Cap of a Busy Saturday Night

Nation, I normally reserve my Saturday nights for sitting in front of the television, screaming in frustration at Bob Cole to stop cheering for the Leafs and just call the bloody game, and trying to develop new and creative ways to inspire Ales Hemsky to SHOOT THE DAMNED PUCK ALREADY!

Last night, however, was an entirely different Saturday night for me. Seeing as how my 2 favourite Hockey Night past-times (cheering for the Oilers, and cheering against the Flames) were out of the equation (neither team was playing), I found myself in the middle of a political whirlwind of activity. Here are some quick thoughts...

McCain wins South Carolina

Good... it's too bad he's not going to win the election, and likely won't carry the nomination over concerns about his age. I like John McCain, and he'd be a heck of a Vice President.

Romney takes Nevada

Mitt Romney made religion an issue in his campaign, and he's reaping the rewards - for now. 94% of yesterday's voters who identified themselves as Mormon voted for Romney. There are large swaths of the country, though, that put "Mormon" on the same ideological shelf as "Scientologist" or "Branch Davidian" - and if those people are Republicans and are faced with a Romney-led ticket for the White House, they may stay home on November 4th, 2008 - which turns red states blue, and puts a democrat in the White House. Mitt can win the battle for the nomination, but he'll likely lose the war for the White House.

Clinton Wins Nevada... Sort Of...

Hillary won the popular vote in Nevada, and is being trumpeted as the winner of the state's Democratic party primary. However, because of the allocation of delegates by county, Barack Obama gets 13 delegates from Nevada to Clinton's 12. Hillary should know (with all of her "experience") by now that the U.S. electoral system isn't about the popular vote, it's about the electoral college - no matter how many votes she got along the Vegas strip, Obama won the battle for delegates in Nevada, and the delegates are who decides the presidential nominee.

Calgary Egmont's Progressive Conservatives nominate Jonathan Denis

Despite the bluster of both the weather and the rejected former nominee candidate, Egmont PC's turned out in surprising numbers to vote for their choice of nominee to carry the party's banner into the next provincial election. The PC party has not yet released the official voting results, however Jonathan Denis won on the first ballot with an overwhelming majority of the estimated 500+ votes cast.

Of note is the "word on the street", that candidate Don Middleton was listed among the top 2 choices on nearly every ballot - Middleton ran a good, clean campaign on a shoe-string budget, and we probably have not heard the last of this high-school teacher.

The ballots themselves had no space to "write-in" a candidate, so any assertion you may hear as to "write-in" votes is patently and unequivocally false - there was no space, and the final tally will only list "Candidate A", "Candidate B", "Candidate C", and "Spoiled". Any mark on the ballot other than an indicated preference or order of preference among the 3 documented candidates printed on the ballot resulted in a "spoiled ballot" (as explained very clearly by the volunteers handing out the ballots) - so there are no write-in votes from yesterdays result, whether for the Enlightened Savage, Daffy Duck, or for anyone else.

Jonathan Denis' candidacy will now be reviewed by the PC party executive, and pending approval he will then be the Tory candidate in an election that will probably be over and done with before March 20th, at the latest.

Wildrose Alliance Comes in Like a Lamb

The Alberta Alliance finally absorbed the fledgling Wildrose Party yesterday, accepting the adoption of the Wildrose constitution and bylaws, formally changing the name of their party from "Alberta Alliance" to "Wildrose Alliance", and electing a new executive. Paul Hinman remains the Alliance leader, and lone sitting MLA.

Supporters of the party are comparing the take-over to the birth of Preston Manning's Reform Party, and get giddy when talking about the impending and imminent collapse of the Progressive Conservative Party in Alberta. The irony that 500+ people voted in a simple nomination meeting for the (apparently dying) PC's in Egmont on the same day that they held their founding meeting with around 200 attendees seems to be lost on the Alliance faithful. The PC's get 500 from *one riding* to a nomination vote, but they need to be terrified of a party that got 200 from the entire *province* to its founding meeting? Dream big, kids, but know when it's time to wake up and get to work. Paul Hinman, for his part, isn't publicly musing about bringing down the Tories in the next 2 months - he knows better. Perhaps some of the party membership should follow their leader's lead.

The Alliance now has to get to the business of coming up with policies and having the party membership vote on them, and nominating candidates in as many of the province's 83 ridings as possible. With the writ expected in about 4 weeks, here's hoping they've got insomniacs on staff.

Nation, I'm going to be losing myself for the next few days in the literature and public records of the Alberta Liberals, preparing my feature on their party, their policies, what they can realistically hope for coming out of the next election, and how they can improve that result. If anything comes up in the meantime, you can be sure I'll be all over it like a fat kid on a cupcake.

As always, I encourage all of you living and voting in Alberta to get out to meet and talk with the candidates from ALL of the parties in your riding, and ask them about what's important to you - you don't get to elect the Premier, so don't fool yourself. You don't get to vote for a party, so don't lie to yourself. All you can do is vote for the best person to represent you and your area's concerns, and let the electoral chips fall where they may. Blind party loyalty at the cost of good representation and good public policy is the bastardized, corrupted version of democracy and an affront to everyone, in uniform and out of it, who has died so that we can actually go THROUGH these little electoral exercises, rather than just being ruled by those of higher social class, tax bracket, or lineage.

Stay Strong, Nation.

- E.S. (who was a fat kid who loved cupcakes, so spare me the outraged emails, "fat kid lobby")

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Results in from Egmont

Jonathan Denis has won the nomination on the first ballot. Numbers aren't being released.

Jonathan Denis will be referred to the PC Association Executive for confirmation of his candidacy, and will then be confirmed as the PC candidate in Egmont, running against Cathie Williams of the Liberals, and at least one independent, to replace outgoing PC MLA Denis Herard.

Get Out The Vote!

Well, Nation, the PC membership in the riding of Calgary Egmont goes out today between noon and 5 pm, to choose their preference for a candidate in the upcoming election.

Having spoken to 2 of the 3 candidates personally in the past 3 weeks, I can tell you that they're taking nothing for granted, and (as good politicians tend to) are running their campaigns as though they're 25 votes behind, with 30 minutes to go. All 3 seem to be tireless campaigners, which would serve the party well in the election.

Nation, if you ARE going to vote in the Egmont nomination today, I ask you to look past the ugliness that has characterized parts of this campaign. Get past the allegations, the counter-allegations, the rumours, whispers and fear-mongering, and ask yourself: Who is my first choice to represent the PC Party, and try to win this seat for the PC's in the next election? And then mark a "1" next to that person's name. Mark a "2" next to the person who you think is the next best choice (it's a preferential ballot).
Above all, Nation, make sure that when you head out to Kingland today to cast your ballot, you're doing so because you want to vote FOR someone, not because you want to vote AGAINST someone... the politics of fear and division cheapens us and the process - choosing our representatives out of positivity and hope builds us and our society up.

Just a reminder that you need not be a card-carrying PC member of long standing to vote for the nomination: Memberships can be purchased at the door. See my post "What's Cracking in Calgary Egmont?" for a break-down of the candidates, and where to vote. Best of luck to all 3 of the candidates, as they have already made many sacrifices, invited light to be shone onto their most intimate lives, and risked character attacks (warranted or not) out of a desire to win the nomination, and go through it all again in a few weeks, against someone who REALLY wants to embarrass and defeat them. Jonathan Denis, Don Middleton, and Vicki Engel are the prospective candidates. To all of you: Good luck, and thank-you.

Predictably, the independent candidate for Egmont has already started screaming at the top of his rather capacious lungs about the unfairness of it all. Going so far as to issue press releases - to blogs, no less - he reminds us all that he is the "democratically elected conservative in Calgary Egmont". At this point it's getting embarrassing to have to point out, but I'd strongly urge the candidate in question ( and all of you) to visit djkelly's blog and get a little reminder about what those words actually mean. The post in question, actually, is up for a Canadian Blog Award, in the "Best Post" category. Go dj!

By the way, remember to follow the links, and vote in the first round of the CBA's. Maybe if I get enough votes, I can trumpet myself as the "democratically elected chief blogger for South-East Calgary".

Then again, I think Calgary Grit is still registered to vote here, so maybe not... ;)

-E.S., casting his ballot between 12 and 5 (but closer to 5) today.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Bitter Winds Blowing for Harper Tories

mo·men·tum (mō-mĕn'təm)
n., pl. -ta (-tə) or -tums.

1. (Symbol p) Physics. A measure of the motion of a body equal to the product of its mass and velocity. Also called linear momentum.
a. Impetus of a physical object in motion.
b. Impetus of a nonphysical process, such as an idea or a course of events: The soaring rise in interest rates finally appeared to be losing momentum.
3. Philosophy. An essential or constituent element; a moment.

... 4. Something the Harper Tories are desperately lacking at the moment. Nation, we could be in for a very, VERY busy spring.

Already on our agenda is a provincial election, and the ticker-tape parade down 17th Avenue celebrating my dominant upcoming victory in the Canadian Blog Awards (remember to vote!). Looks like we're going to have to add a Federal election to that calendar as well.

Momentum, or "Big Mo", has often been on the side of Stephen Harper since he took office. His government has been seen to be moving forward; cleaning up various issues; getting things done. To watch them, they have seemed to constantly be in a state of forward motion - momentum not just of a political nature, but in its most literal definition. They have hit bumps, they have run into onstacles, but they have maintained their forward momentum.

Now, though, they're slowing down. And, should ANY of the 3 opposition parties in the House pick up on it and pull the trigger, we're heading to the polls.

The Mulroney/Schreiber affiar, by itself, didn't warrant an election. It was being dealt with, it was ancient history, and there was no tie to the current government.

Afghanistan, by itself, didn't warrant an election. We were there, we were getting the job done, the Liberals had committed us to be there in the first place, and we weren't committing to a combat role past the life expectancy of this parliament.

Chalk River, by itself, didn't warrant an election. There were problems, the government and opposition got together and forced a solution through, and the problem was fixed.

Speedbumps, all of them. Dealt with, and forgotten.

Or were they?

Nation, the problem with plaque isn't the daily stuff. You brush it off, and it's gone. If you miss a spot, though, then tomorrow it's got 2 days worth of plaque. Most of your teeth and sparkling clean, but it's the plaque that's not a concern. After 3 or 4 days of this, you've got a pretty serious problem, especially if it goes undetected.

The plaque has started to build up on the Harper Tories, and those speedbumps are starting to become harder and harder to write off.

The recent firing of Linda Keen, head of the Nuclear Safety Commission, for daring to question the Tories, is not by itself a reason to topple the government. But, as a continuation of a long line of examples of the Tories' inability to deal with criticism, it speaks to the character of the people to whom we have given our consent to be governed (a phrase I'm shamelessly co-opting from Ken Chapman).

The American Secretary of Defence, Robert M. Gates, has questioned the training and ability of Canadian and other NATO troops in Sotuhern Afghanistan. Turns out the government can and should be doing more to facilitate the missions's success than allowing a Tim Horton's to open up at Kandahar airfield. By itself? Not enough to triiger an election.

The public no longer sees this government as moving forever forward, but instead sees it spinning its wheels... it is a perfect political opportunity for the opposition to paint them as such. Poll numbers have already shown the Liberals gaining ground and, in some regions, passing the Tories comfortably. If the opposition has the stomach to spend real money on a real election, instead of constantly musing about one to see what happens to their polling numbers, then we may be in for a busy political spring.

Stephen, if you've got one of your famous contingency plans stowed away for your next dip in the polls... now is the time to pull the trigger. Because we got a GST cut 17 days ago, and nobody remembers. And if you don't get momentum back on your side, then a year from now, we might have trouble remembering that we had a Conservative government to start 2008.

Monday, January 14, 2008

CBA Voting Begins - Round 1

The voting has begun for the 2007 Canadian Blog Awards.

For a full list of candidates and links to vote in each category, click here.

Nation, there are plenty of FOES (Friends Of Enlightened Savage - really need to work on that acronym) up for awards. Without listing ALL of them, I'd encourage you to check out and support:

Ken Chapman (Best Political Blog)
Calgary Grit (Best Blog, Best Political Blog, Best Progressive Blog)
daveberta (Best Blog, Best Blogosphere Citizen, Best Political Blog, Best Progressive Blog) (Best New Blog, Best Blog Post, Best Local Blog)

Of course, members of the E.S. Nation being the rabid supporters that they are, I'll just post direct links below for the categories your humble scribe is the hands-down favourite to win (vote early and often - just kidding, one vote in each category per IP address per round).

The Enlightened Savage is shamelessly begging for your votes in the following categories:

Best Blog
Best New Blog
Best Political Blog

Remember, Nation: It's not a popularity contest.

Vote for me! I love you! Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease???? I'll give you an "E.S. Nation" t-shirt... ;-)

Yep... got my election game-face on. :)

The Campaign Responds

Nation, once again the alternative media juggernaught that is The Enlightened Savage has made its prescence felt in the campaign for the PC nomination in Calgary Egmont.

My previous post outlined some of the allegations being bandied about. I received a response from the campaign manager of the candidate being accused of impropriety, and have posted our discussion below (text not related to the issue at hand was deleted). Jim Duncan text appears blue, The Enlightened Savage text appears red (don't read into that). ;-)

Enlightened Savage,

... Feel free to post this as we have nothing to hide.

My name is Jim Duncan and I am the Campaign Manager for Vicki Engel.

It is unfortunate that our opponents in this race are as paranoid as they are.

Our literature has been distributed in Willow Park and Kingsland in recent days by our campaign.

In our deliveries we came across literature from Don Middleton who is seeking the nomination. Mr. Middleton is distributing an orange flyer and magnets with his name on it. This appeared in Kingsland the same day as our flyer did. We know this because we were slightly behind Mr. Middletons workers.

We also came across a green flyer from (independent candidate name removed) in both Willow Park and Kingsland, but have been informed by others that the (independent candidate name removed) crew is dropping the whole constituency. His information has appeared in Riverbend and Ramsay among other places. I feel his timing of being in Willow Park and Kingsland are to remind people he is still around.

Our flyer is a blue flyer.

Being that the vote is in Kingsland we have focused on the Willow Park and Kingsland area.

It seems Don Middleton has the same idea we have.

As for (independent candidate name removed), I can't speak for him or any other campaign.

However, it appears that Mr. Middleton, (independent candidate name removed) and our campaign are the only ones working.

We can't help that our literature is arriving the same time that Don Middleton's and (independent candidate name removed)'s are.

To post that we are working in collusion with anyone on your blog would be false. It seems that while we are busy trying to get our message out, one of our opponets would rather accuse and conspire, instead of work.

If you need to get a hold of our campaign further on this issue feel free to call (contact information removed from public view by E.S. for spam concerns, but can be accessed by clicking here).

Jim Duncan
Campaign Manager
Vicki Engel Campaign

Jim: Thank-you for your prompt response to my entreaty for some comment from the campaign regarding these accusations. I have tried very hard to avoid giving any indication that the comments I was receiving - anonymous comments, thus unattributable and unconfirmable - were regarding Vicki's campaign. I am quite aware that during elections, the truth can get twisted and spun in a way to ensure a desired result, and want to try and avoid taking part in such spin, so I thought I'd try to get ahold of the campaign directly, rather than damage the campaign by allowing innuendo to be reported as fact.

As I mentioned, the comments I received were posted by anonymous readers, and as such I cannot confirm who posted the comments, and whether or not they are actively or passively supporting any of your opponents.

I have to say, having worked on literature drops myself in the past, I find your explanation of the alleged "flyer bundling" completely likely... often, while dropping off flyers for the PC candidate in my riding at the time, I'd find the flyer on top of the pile in the mailbox would be a Liberal or NDP flyer - to assert that I was dropping off flyers for both candidates, or that the campaigns were working in collusion, based on this flimsy "evidence" would have been irresponsible - hence, why I haven't done so
on the Blog in this instance.

Somewhat more difficult to explain, however, is the allegation that Caller ID Displays are showing calls from your Demon Dialer machines as coming from "(independent candidate name removed)", even though the recorded message is from Vicki. It may be that, if you're using PGIB resources to assist in the campaign, that the machines or phone lines have yet to be recalibrated or re-set to indicate someone other than "HWSNBN", who no doubt would have been the last candidate to use them. You can no doubt understand the resulting confusion, if this is indeed going on, from potential voters when receiving a phone call supporting one candidate from a number identified as belonging to an opposing candidate.


If you'd care to draft a response that includes the issue of the Caller ID, I'd be happy to post that on the Blog. If you'd just as soon let your original message stand as the
statement of record, I can post that...

Many thanks again for your response, and hoping to hear from you again soon.

- Enlightened Savage

Thanks for the response and feel free to post my original method along with this response...

The only thing not addressed in my last post was allegations that a Demon Dialer came from "(independent candidate name removed)" and that his name showed up on the call display.

This is completely false. PGIB of which Vicki is a member of (she mentions this on her website in the "About Vicki" section) owns Demon Dialer technology. Being that we are aware of this and are unaware who else has this technology in Calgary we employed the PGIB Corporate and Political Service division for a call out on Saturday, January 12, 2008. PGIB is also a business and works with various conservative politcal parties and their various campaign products are quite impressive.

The PGIB system is internet based and in it's program allows the outgoing number to be changed. The caller ID that showed up as a result of Vicki's Demon Dialer
showed that the call call from a Private Name and listed the Campaign office number. I know this to be 100% accurate as I was at the PGIB office for the loading and deletion of our database. Anyone who suggests that the caller ID showed up as "(independent candidate name removed)" is purposefully lying. I have contacted 5 other people this morning and looked at my own caller display and the ID appears as follows:

Private Name

It is unfortunate that the candidate who lost against "(independent candidate name removed)" has the strategy of going negative. We refuse to stoop to this level. I am not sure how the candidate who lost to "(independent candidate name removed)" is going to unite the constituency if he wins with the constant attacks in blogs and to the members happening on a constant basis?

While the candidate who lost against "(independent candidate name removed)" is making allegations we are now launching our GOTV.

Jim Duncan
Campaign Manager
Vicki Engel

So, Nation, there we have it - the official response from the Engel campaign regarding these allegations.

I understand that some of you may assert that Jim's responses are inadequate, or outright false - such is the nature of politics these days that, unfortunately, the credibility of a candidate is placed ahead of their policies. Then again, some people who run for office are obviously quite comfortable hiding the truth in order to gain a position of power and influence. I'm going to have to insist, though, that if anyone from this point onward is going to attack the statements made by Jim Duncan, a real person who made the above comments directly TO me, then they're going to have to include THEIR real name as well. This nomination race is too important to leave to innuendo spread as fact by the anonymous - hence, why I've avoided specific accusations of impropriety: I'm essentially anonymous myself. If someone out there is going to call Jim Duncan or the Engel campaign a liar in this important race, they're going to have to give their real name. Jim gave his, and it's only right that someone attacking his credibility do the same.

I, lacking any evidence that I myself have seen to the contrary, will accept him at his word. I encourage everyone to make up their own mind, based on what you read here and what you yourself see with your own 2 eyes. After all, in the words of an illustrious and thankfully former Prime Minister... a proof is a proof. And right now, all *I* have seen is a case of "he said, they said, they said...".

- E.S.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Something Rotten in the State of Egmont?

Nation, maybe it's the lack of sleep or the incredible pain I'm currently experiencing in my back (which I'm debating on naming "Anders" or "Egmont - thoughts?), but I'm getting a little sick of writing about this nomination... as, no doubt, some of you are getting sick of reading about it. Luckily, all will (hopefully, PLEASE god let it be true) be settled by this time next week, and I won't have to type the word "Egmont" for at least a month.

I'm hearing unconfirmed rumblings that one of the 3 candidates for the PC nomination in Egmont has had their literature "bundled" with the literature of the independent candidate for the riding, who had formerly hoped to be the PC candidate, and ran for the position this past November. I am currently seeking corroboration on this story - has anyone seen one person dropping off literature for both candidates to their home?

If it's a regular "flyer force" drop, and you're getting your candidate information along with your Sobey's flyer, from your regular flyer delivery person (pulp literature delivery specialist?) that's one thing. If it's a coincidence, and both flyers end up in the mailbox but are delivered by different people at different times and just HAPPEN to be on the same day, that's understandable. If the literature is being carried by a campaign staffer or volunteer for EITHER campaign, as a SET, and being delivered as such, that's something else entirely.

I know that the candidate in question, or someone on their staff, reads this Blog as it is quoted on the candidate's website (the candidate does not have an e-mail address listed, or I would have contacted them directly prior to this being posted for their response). I hope the candidate, or someone from their campaign, can contact me (email address in my profile) and clear this up.

As I said, coincidence or bundled flyer drop is one thing, but to have an independent candidate and a prospective PC candidate combining forces, yet running 2 separate campaigns, speaks of collusion and makes one question where the candidate's loyalties, interests and true intentions lie.

I sincerely hope this isn't the case, and that my sources are wrong. Citizens of E.S. Nation in Egmont - how have YOUR flyers been arriving from candidates for the PC nomination, and the independent candidate? At random intervals, or suspiciously uniform and always together?

I hope to hear from the candidate in question, and from the citizens in Egmont.

- E.S., who is in the process of purchasing the domains "", "", and ""... can't be too careful. ;)

ADDENDUM: I'm getting some comments confirming the allegations of an apparent conflict, but am still waiting to hear from the candidate his-or-her-self in hopes that there is an innocent explanation for the mound of evidence that keeps piling up - call me an optimist.

I would LOVE to post these comments, Nation. I am not doing so at this time for 2 reasons. Firstly, until such time as I can confirm what is or is not happening, I'm not comfortable levying accusations of impropriety towards specific and named candidates in what has already been a hellish nomination process. Secondly, I'm not letting comments through that mention either the candidate in question by name (for reasons fully outlined in reason 1), OR the name of the independent candidate to whom they have been linked - that particular individual has already gotten more than enough free publicity from this blog, will not be receiving any more, and will henceforth be referred to as "He Who Shall Not Be Named", "HWSNBN", or simply "Lord Voldemort".

Comments on this particular issue (the apparent conflict of interest/collusion) that can be framed without mentioning the candidate for the PC nomination by name, and that do not mention He Who Shall Not Be Named by his given name will more than likely be approved.

That is all.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

What's Cracking In Calgary Egmont?

A cheap joke, I know... but they're not all going to be Chaucer, Nation.

Enough time has passed since the widely covered and commented-on nomination snafu for the provincial PC's in the Calgary riding of Egmont. The party has announced a nomination meeting to be held on January 19th, from 12 noon to 5 pm at the Kingsland Community Centre (505 - 78th Ave. SW). A valid 2008 membership (and 2 pieces of ID) will be required to vote, available through the various campaigns, or from the party directly at the door.

I thought we'd take a look at the 3 major contenders for the nomination, and see what egg-zactly they have to offer the riding (okay, I apologize for that one - no more) as a candidate.

Jonathan Denis ran in the first nomination, and finished second with nearly 500 votes (enough to win in just about any constituency in the province). He is a 32 year-old lawyer and businessman, and has served the PC Party as a vice-president for the Egmont constituency association, and as the official agent for Denis Herard in the 2004 election. Denis recently announced he has the endorsement of Jason Kenney, the Member of Parliament for the area. This may be off-set by the fact that he also received an endorsement from Paul Jackson, disgraced Calgary Sun columnist. He mentions several times that he is a long-time party member (I'm at 13 years and counting, Jon - beat that!).

Jonathan's campaign is focusing on the following 4 key areas:
  • Strong Leadership
  • Safe Streets
  • Effective Government Services
  • Keeping Taxes Low

Denis certainly has the best organized of the 2 campaigns. As a political consultant he knows all the ins and outs of the system, and in fairness, he was the only one of the 3 candidates to actually know that he was running for this nomination, say, 4 months ago.
He also ran, in the face of overwhelming opposition, in the last nomination, which tells you he's not about to back down from a fight, even when he knows he's not the biggest dog.
He indicates that he will be an inclusive leader, as many residents of Egmont don't vote Tory, or at all, and the MLA must serve all of them.

Jonathan Denis' campaign website is located here, and his official Facebook group is located here.

Don Middleton is a born-and-raised Calgarian who has taught with the Calgary Board of Education since 1993 - yes, he's a teacher running against the star Liberal candidate for Egmont, Cathie Williams, a former chair of the Calgary Catholic board. Wouldn't you love to hear her try to tell Don how bad things are in the education system, and then have him ask her when she was last in a classroom for anything more substantive than a photo op? Middleton served as assistant returning officer for the party in the last nomination, and as such was neutral in the previous race. He has coached sports both curricular and community-based, instilling in his young athletes a sense of obligation to give back to their community.

Don goes into his policies on his website, but it's not his policies that get me excited about this candidate - it's his statements regarding what he believes an MLA needs to be:
  • ... needs to be assertive when necessary, yet a good listener
  • ... occasionally must be willing to set aside personal beliefs to follow and express the views of the constituency
  • ... needs to be able to communicate effectively and empathize with everyone in the constituency, not just those who voted for him

Don Middleton has a few things going for him in this campaign, but there are 2 things that make him particularly electable for this nomination: Firstly, the nomination of a CBE teacher in the riding essentially cuts off the Liberals and their "star candidate" at the knees.

Secondly, and more importantly, Don understands the most important, fundamental rule of being an MLA - You're not elected to LEAD the riding, you're elected to SERVE the riding. You work for EVERYONE in the riding, and you don't assume that, since you got the most votes, they're giving you carte blanche to promote your own beliefs as theirs. The final say on how "the member for Calgary Egmont" votes isn't yours, it's the PEOPLE of Egmont's.

It's an unusually clear-minded approach to running for office - one that more prospective politicians would be well-advised to take heed of.

Don Middleton's campaign website is located here, and his Facebook group is found here.

Vicki Engel is also a native Calgarian, and holds the distinction of being one of the original residents of the community of Riverbend. Vicki is a health-care professional, having served as a nurse, teacher, researcher and administrator. She now owns her own business, Engel Consulting, focusing on health & wellness products. Vicki writes a blog on her website, to let people know what's going on within her campaign (I'd mention it gets infrequently updated, but then I sometimes go 2 weeks between postings here, so who am I to talk?). She lists health-care as her top priority.

Vicki has an extremely detailed platform on her website. Among the highlights:

  • Health Care - move towards preventative, rather than reactionist, model of care.
  • Provincial Rights - institute an Alberta Pension Plan, establish provincial police force.
  • Education - allow more Charter schools.

Engel is running as a "bridge candidate" - hoping to bring the fractured party membership back together after the divisiveness of the previous nomination (I fear that ship has sailed, Vicki - they're long gone).

She goes out of her way to seemingly answer the critics who have labelled her as being too closely associated with a declared independent candidate in the riding, posting on her web-site "The only policies Vicki will be promoting in the upcoming election are those of the party.". Seems pretty clear to me.

She does seem, however, to be either a little INsecure, or a little TOO secure, as she posts on her campaign blog "Mr. (Don) Middleton would make an excellent second choice on the ballot" (as a preferential ballot, party members have the option of choosing a 2nd candidate on their ballot). The mentioning of another candidate in this way suggests either that she's so confident in her victory that she doesn't fear mentioning an opponent in a positive light, she wants to keep Jonathan Denis away from the nomination at any and all costs, or that she IS, in fact, threatened by the Middleton nomination, and is trying to be glib and dismissive of it (the same way I'd pat my fiancee on the head and call her the "second-best blogger in the house" (she doesn't blog - doesn't even read THIS one). Only time will tell which of those 3 scenarios is more accurate.

Vicki Engel's campaign website can be found here.

The member of the PC Party residing in Egmont have a tough choice to make - there are 3 very different candidates for this nomination. The winner is going to have a tough row to hoe, running to hold onto this seat against a star Liberal candidate, and a well-organized and financed independent. Organization and funding can be helped by the party once the nomination is formalized, but once you get up on the stage with that mic in your face, only one thing matters: What do you REALLY believe in? Are you trying to get a job, or are you trying to get power? The PC's in Egmont need to make sure they elect a nominee who will answer that question honesty, sincerely, and correctly. Because at the end of the day, they need to choose a candidate who will WIN the seat for the PC's in the upcoming election - all the great ideas and aspirations in the world don't mean squat if you lose the election.

EDIT: I have been informed, through anonymous readers of the site, that this nomination will be contested by preferential ballot. I am unclear at this time whether the 2nd choices will be considered only in the event that no candidate garners 50%+1 of the initial round of voting, or whether the 3rd place finisher's ballots will automatically be divided among their second choice.

The first option, readers will remember, was the one used for the Alberta PC Leadership election in 2006. The third-place finisher's (Morton's) supporters had their ballots re-counted, and were then applied to the other 2 candidates by their indicated 2nd preference (25,813 of Morton's voters indicated Ed Stelmach, who was already ahead after the first round of voting. 4,227 of Morton's voters chose Dinning as a second choice).

Given the precedent, I'd think that will most LIKELY be the case here as well, so the 2nd choice won't become a factor unless no candidate wins a majority on the first ballot.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Free Speech, or Legalized Bigotry?

Nation, I've been doing a lot of thinking about Free Speech lately.

Free Speech is one of the most critical elements in what we consider to be a modern democracy. The freedom of people to express their opinions, whether on the pulpit, the microphone, or the page, is one of democracy's most sacred and protected rights - even the whiff of denial of this right brings people screaming from the hills to decry the heinous abuse of governmental power and censorship.

Despite musings to the contrary on another message board, I believe I understand social conservatives as well as anyone who can't call themselves one (I am and remain a proud and staunch social progressive - which is NOT the same as a bleeding-heart liberal, by the way, and only a Sith deals in absolutes). SoCons claim that their single biggest political issue is the sacrifice of religious freedom and freedom of speech in the name of political correctness. Despite my own opinions on the SoCon agenda, due to a lack of anything other my personal suspicions and preconceived notions I have to accept them at their word on this.

My view on freedom of religion is quite simple: Freedom of religion means for ALL religions.

It's the freedom of religious expression, and by proxy Free Speech, where things get a little more cloudy for me.

On the one hand, I have been indoctrinated very nicely by parents, teachers and the media on both sides of the 49th in my nearly 30 years that freedom of speech needs to be absolute, with no exceptions. My ancestors crossed oceans and died to fight against evil monsters who denied this right to their people, and held state-sponsored book burnings of material judged "inappropriate". Indeed, I've been taught that any government that curtails this right in the slightest is basically a few brown shirts and a beer-hall from being Nazis.

On the other hand, I've been subjected to a society that routinely and as a matter of course fights to curtail freedom of speech. Boycotts of radio stations that play artists with questionable lyrics, the pasteurized language that has made its way into the daily lexicon so as to avoid "offending people" at all costs, the refusal of certain school boards to stock the Harry Potter series, the Golden Compass, or anything that acknowledges that some children have "2 dads who live together" on their library shelves. Ironically, in many cases it is church groups, the most fertile ground in which to find social conservatives, which fight the hardest against the right to free expression in such cases.

I find myself agreeing that the government should generally try to stay away from legislating speech whenever possible. Speech after all is the verbalized expression of our thoughts, and any attempt to control what is acceptable speech must also naturally lead one to conclude that attempts are being made to control what is acceptable thought - a frightening prospect. And yet, I have a hard time accepting that anything and everything that could cross a person's lips must be accepted by society in the spirit of 100%, all-inclusive free speech. A Nazi rally in the lobby of City Hall? A radio commercial from NAMBLA?

Even the hair-splitting of "freedom of RELIGIOUS expression" runs into problems... I daresay that many of the same social conservatives who decry their pastors' inability to publicly denounce homosexuality as a sinful activity would probably not appreciate a radical Imam giving a vitriolic anti-semitic sermon to a crowd of thousands of followers on a Saturday in Olympic Plaza.

As I said... I'm not certain where to come out on this. Even the 2 "mainstream extremes" (a contradiction, I know) in North American politics (Canada's federal Liberals and the US's Republicans) have found themselves curtailing freedom of speech in some cases, and trumpeting it as an absolute good in others. American liberals condemn Bush for curtailing freedom of speech through electronic surveillance and the Partiot Act, and then demand that Duance Chapman's "Dog the Bounty Hunter" be cancelled because he was recorded using racial slurs in a private conversation. Our home-grown social conservatives claim freedom of speech as their biggest issue, yet many of them then turn around and hypocritically condemn others for "bad language" or "insidious anti-Christian messages", and seek sanctions.

If you want your pastor to be able to write articles or give interviews where he condemns certain groups as sinful or evil, and you're an activist for freedom of speech, then you've got to give Osama bin Laden, the evil witchcraft-promoting J.K. Rowling and archival Hitler speeches a fair shake, too.

After all, freedom of speech means freedom of ALL speech. If it's good for the goose, it's good for the gander.

And if it's just freedom of religious expression you want extended to clergy, then get ready for a lot of anti-Christian rhetoric on the airwaves... because there are a lot of non-Christian clergy who aren't too fond of the "fishers of men", and you're fighting for their freedom, too, or you're just a hypocrite.

Freedom for all? Or a free-for-all?

Luckily, I'm no Sith. I see shades of grey - and believe in "Freedom for all to express themselves, without promoting hate or prejudice against people based on race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income or family status."

Good line?

It's from the preamble to the Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

If A Political Party Falls In The Forest...

... and no one has ever cast a ballot for that party in an election, does anyone notice?

Nation, as you know, I've been working on an overview of the province's political parties, to give us all something to think about as we head on the slow march towards a spring election.

No sooner do I finish writing my look at the Wildrose Party than I find, to my surprise, that a merger between this new party and the Alberta Alliance is not just rumoured, but essentially is all but done.

By now, many of you are familiar with the details: The new party, provisionally named "Wildrose Alliance", would essentially adopt the party constitution of Wildrose, and its first leader would be Paul Hinman, the lone sitting MLA for what has been to this point the Alberta Alliance.

The adoption of the Wildrose constitution is a step in the right direction - as time goes on, and people learn from the examples of others about what works and what doesn't in a constitution, it's only right that it change (unless, of course, it's the constitution handed down by God Herself to Saint Trudeau, which is not a living document but must remain unchanged in perpetuity, no matter how flawed and despite the fact that 23.4% of the population hasn't ratified it - right, Liberals?), and the Wildrose constitution is all of what, 7 months old? Hinman is also an obvious choice to lead the Party through its birth pains, and into the pending election. As a sitting MLA, and someone who has led a provincial party before, he lends credibility to the effort. A particularly fun discussion, though, results from asking the question "who will be the NEXT leader of the Wildrose Alliance?".

We'll ask that question some other time.

Nation, the question that must be asked at this point, is "so what does this mean?".

The Alberta Alliance, which stood to win MAYBE 5 or 6 seats in the next election, if everything went its way, has absorbed a party that has never run a candidate, anywhere. Wildrose has never had a single vote cast for it, in any election, ever. And yet, despite this, those inside the new party are convinced that they are now the government-in-waiting.

This isn't to say that it CAN'T happen... it's just extremely unlikely.

Unless the stories of mass migrations of disgruntled Tories flocking to Wildrose are true, we're talking about a party with an extremely small, overwhelmingly rural membership base, and little ability to fundraise. The "Wildrose Effect" is hard to predict, but in the last provincial election, the Alliance captured 8.7% of the popular vote. The NDP captured 4 seats with just 10.2% of the popular vote. The Alliance's strength, to date, has been in rural communities. The election of Ed Stelmach as leader of the PC's may hurt the new party's rural fortunes, as a vote for the Stelmach Tories this spring will be a vote to keep a farmer from Andrew, Alberta as the province's premier.

To be honest, it's very easy to be dismissive of this new party.

Despite this, I'd encourage the members and supporters of the PC Party to avoid doing so at all costs - the federal PC's, sitting pretty after consecutive Mulroney majorities, harboured the same attitude towards Preston Manning and his rag-tag bunch of "red-necked, hillbilly populists". Their party fell off the electoral radar screen in 1993, and a decade later it ceased to exist altogether, when it was absorbed by - you guessed it - that same bunch of "red-necked, hillbilly populists", now having their mail delivered to 24 Sussex Drive.

The concern for the Tories here needs to be that the new party could be greater than the sum of its parts. With a well-run campaign, a few seats in the legislature and a successful AGM and policy convention, the Wildrose Alliance can establish itself on some political ground that has proven very stable and successful in Alberta, and currently remains vacant - the traditional PC real estate of "fiscal responsibility and social hands-off" (Kevin Taft, to his credit, tried to squat on or near this spot, or just to the left of it, but nobody noticed).

If the party's right wing can resist the urge to legislate morals (Wildrose side-stepped this minefield at their policy convention, to their credit), and they can get in touch with the average Albertan's concern over the province's fiscal future (it's only a matter of time before the oil runs out, or alternative energy takes over), they can make some gains here. Just as important is the appearance of momentum - people love a winner, and will flock to join a party they feel will be in power. If polls show the Wildrose Alliance making gains, traditional Tory voters will take a look at the party. If the party co-opts the 1993 PC Alberta platform, those voters will like what they see (most of them already voted for that platform once, when it was Ralph's), and may park their votes there - to the dismay of the Stelmach Tories.

There are, however, 2 potentially deadly Achilles' Heels that this party will be burdened with, from the day of its birth onward.

The first is the fringe, far-right social conservative element. Albertans are socially conservative - on a small, limited scale. Most of us, however, are disinclined to revisit divisive social issues on a provincial scale purely for the sake of a politician's standing in his or her church (or mosque, or temple, or synagogue). The American-style (god, I hate that term) SoCon evangelical "vote for me because I'm the most Christian candidate" approach may work in a few towns across the province, but will NOT work on a provincial scale. Edmontonians and Calgarians will not support a party that tries to meddle in people's private lives. Should the party's social conservative elements make noise about re-opening the debate on same-sex marriage, abortion, or any number of other divisive social and moral issues, the cities will simply avoid this party like the plague. There is far too much important policy relating directly to Alberta's future to get bogged down in moral and religious debates:

"People shouldn't be able to do this, it's against my faith!"
"Yeah, but wasn't eating meat on a Friday against your faith, and punishable by hell less than 100 years ago, too? Where's THAT law?"

The second major dilemma this party faces is fundraising. There's no such thing as a free lunch - it's a cliche because it's TRUE. Parties without proven track records and, just as importantly, without an actual chance (or perceived chance, at the very least) of winning power have an extremely difficult time raising money with which to fund campaigns. People and corporations don't want to donate money so they can buy influence with the opposition - they want to purchase influence with the party in government. The only 2 groups that have the money and inclination to support this party are going to be Big God and Big Oil.

Big God - organized Christian religion (especially evangelicals) - is going to love this party. They're going to donate to it, they're going to join it, they're going to volunteer for it, and they're going to vote for it. The problem is, they're going to attach some pretty serious strings to that support:
"We'll support you, but once you're in power, you're going to have to help us turn the clock back to 'Traditional Values' and re-make this province back into the way it SHOULD be - no gays, baby-killers, or bikinis allowed".
As I mentioned above, even a whiff of this in the party platform (or, the PC's playing the dreaded "hidden agenda" card) will scare disenchanted PC voters away from taking a chance on this party (they'll likely stay home rather than vote for the Grits or Dippers - here's an idea: Vote GREEN if you're mad at Ed).

Big Oil, on the other hand, has no choice. They can't support the Liberals or the NDP, the Greens are their mortal enemy, they won't support the Tories after the re-jigging of the Royalty Regime, so who does that leave? The problem, again, being that the Wildrose Alliance needs Big Oil's money a lot more than Big Oil needs the Wildrose Alliance, and therefore influence on the party's policies and platforms will be the trade-off for all those nice, big cheques.

The danger here is to the campaign itself - To run a campaign as a brand new party and get bogged down on details of your proposed overhaul to the new royalty framework is a political car-wreck. When you're trying to get your new brand out to the people, and communicate your entire platform and your aspirations for the province, to spend half of your time explaining the math involved in your Royalty plan because the time is being paid for by Exxon or Shell is a communications nightmare. Plus, the support of Big Oil will make it problematic for this party to run a campaign of fiscal accountability based on the fact that "the oil's going to run out someday". Hard to argue the need to diversify the economy and rely less on Oil when Oil is paying for your t.v. commercials.

The way I see it, unless there is a popular uprising based on Hinman's personal likeability (possible, but unlikely) and hundreds of thousands of Albertans start mailing in $50 cheques to the Wildrose Alliance, this party is going to have to decide which is the lesser of the 2 evils - it WILL have to sell its soul to actually run a major campaign in 10 weeks. Will it be to Big God, and make its first impression to the province as a "religious fringe party", or will it be to Big Oil, and be seen as a "corporate, anti-environment party"?

My money's on Big Oil - you'll tick off the environmentalists, but a strong oilpatch means jobs across the province, which means disposable income - and people who have disposable income are happy and vote out of motivated self-interest - which, the Wildrose Alliance hopes will mean THEM and not the Tories, evil plunderers of the oilpatch that they are.

The Alliance is meeting on January 19th to ratify the merger. Polling day could be less than 2 months after that, so you know that they're working on election details NOW, and hoping like hell that the Alliance membership doesn't reject the merger.

In 2004, the Alliance was a fringe, and Wildrose wasn't yet a glimmer in Link Byfield's eye. In 2008, the Wildrose Alliance will either surpass its predecessor, or be still-born and crushed under the Tory electoral machine. It all depends on the Wildrose Alliance platform, and how they choose to communicate it - because if this party can't be ready to go to the polls in 2 months, and be a palatable choice to disgruntled PC supporters, it runs the risk of returning a single MLA for 4 or 5 more years, and withering on the vine.

For this merger to be a success, they must return no less than 5 MLA's to the legislature, to push the party's platform and make sure it stays on the radar until the next election. They need a podium at the debates, they need to run a good campaign, both leading up to this election and more importantly AFTERWARDS, and they need to make sure they present a MODERATE conservative alternative if they ever hope to win support in the cities.

Interesting times in Alberta politics... it truly IS "the most wonderful time of the year..."