Friday, February 29, 2008

The Race For Calgary Shaw

Something interesting happened on the way to the polls in Calgary Shaw this year... things got, well, interesting.

Shaw is one of those ridings that, generally, PC's have been able to take for granted. Sure, their volunteers get out and door-knock and drop flyers and work just as hard as any other party - but with margins of victory like 9,000 in 1997, and nearly 17,000 in 2001 (yes, you read that right), the PC's could be forgiven for assuming this riding is fairly untouchable. Featuring communities like Shawnessy, Sundance, and Lake Chapparal, the riding is mostly on the North side of the "Middle Class Divide". However, this is Oil country... and Oil is displeased.

The Candidates:
Cindy Ady (PC)
John Roggeveen (Lib)
Jenn Carlson (NDP)
Richard P. Dur (WAP)
Jennifer Oss-Saunders (Grn)

Cindy Ady was first elected to represent Calgary Shaw in 2001, and won by a massive margin. She won handily in 2004 as well, by a substantially smaller margin. The freshly-minted Associate Minister of Tourism Promotion, Ady ran into a bit of trouble with allegations of impropriety regarding her duties with the "Idaho-Alberta Transboundary Task Force" (I've got to say, my potatoes have never tasted better!) - an issue that hasn't gained any real traction among her constituents. What HAS gained traction, though, is the changes to the Royalty Regime. The riding is, by most accounts, turning on Ady at a shocking pace. They are angry, and are letting her and her volunteers know about it in staggering numbers. Rumours of a dysfunctional campaign have also dogged the incumbent. Highly-placed Tories in the area suggest that this former bastion of Tory-dom might be lost on Monday night, with enough angry voters staying home or voting WAP to allow the Liberals to take the riding.

John Roggeveen has avoided the temptation to go with the cookie-cutter Liberal website design, and his site is quite refreshingly different. Roggeveen is an experienced lawyer, who ran here in 2004 and captured nearly 2,400 votes. The Roggeveen camp has run a quiet and persistent campaign, and this may have proven to be a strategically brilliant move. Knowing that the Royalty debate was going to be the key issue in the riding, and knowing that his own party's stance on the topic was going to prove even more unpopular than the re-vamped PC plan, John has laid low, and let the Wildrose candidate do all the attacking. As more and more people decide not to vote for Ady and the PC's, Roggeveen has gotten closer and closer to the point where his 2,000 solid Liberal voters can get him within striking distance of winning the seat - which he may very well do, provided he can get out the vote on Monday.

Jenn Carlson is a lamb to the slaughter here... only 2 ridings in Calgary saw less NDP support in 2004, and that was before the Royalty issue came up, which sees the NDP on the complete opposite side of the vast majority of residents in Calgary Shaw. Carlson hasn't even put up a website that I can find - probably decided it wasn't worth the $12 to register the domain. Running for the New Democrats here shows guts, but it takes more than guts to get elected - it takes policies that people will support.

Richard P. Dur has no cake-walk here, despite what many might think. While the WAP candidate will benefit greatly from his party's stance on Royalties, his big challenge is going to be to convince the voters of Shaw to cast a ballot for HIM, rather than staying home to register their displeasure. His team is said to be running a high-spirited and aggressive campaign. Dur, a student at St. Mary's University College (which is in the riding), comes with some federal Tory connections as well, and might be seen as a viable alternative despite his youth and inexperience. I don't think he's a FAVOURITE to win here, but I think he CAN win - and if he doesn't, he's a good bet for 2nd.

Jennifer Oss-Saunders is an interesting candidate for the Greens, as both she and her husband have careers in Oil and Gas. Jennifer herself is a senior administrator for BP Canada Energy - so clearly, her focus isn't on putting the Oil and Gas sector out of business, but rather on that Green buzz-word "sustainability". Quoting Oss-Saunders from her own website:
“I like the fiscally conservative stance of the Party which beautifully accommodates a socially viable green vision for the future of Albertans which includes our four grandchildren.”
Wow - doesn't really sound like a raging tree-hugging hippie, does she? This riding wasn't one of the stronger ones for the Greens in 2004, but if Jennifer can lead them to a 4th place-or-better finish here, it'll be a moral victory.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Race For Calgary Nose Hill

A relatively new riding just East of Nose Hill Park, this riding is staunchly middle-class, featuring such neighbourhoods as Huntington Hills and Beddington. Several large churches dot the landscape. The riding elected PC Neil Brown by a margin of 1,700 votes in 2004. His Liberal challenger is being recycled from that election, so if at first you don't succeed...

The Candidates:
Neil Brown (PC)
Len Borowski (Lib)
Tristan Ridley (NDP)
John Murdoch (WAP)
Nick Burman (Grn)

Dr. Neil Brown is a biologist, zoologist and lawyer seeking his 2nd term as MLA for Nose Hill. An avid volunteer, Brown has lived in Calgary for the past 27 years (he obtained his PhD from McGill, which means he must be a devotee of the Smoked Meat Sandwich at Schwartz's). Neil is an advocate for electoral reform, which plays well in this riding. In addition to kudos from Jim Dinning and Jim Prentice, Brown also has an unlikely testimonial on his website:
"I actually have to start with a complement to the hon. Member, who I really appreciate having in this assembly and appreciate his work ethic. He certainly works hard and is, for the most part a fair and reasonable person to work with". - Mo Elsalhy, Liberal Opposition MLA - Alberta Hansard April 17, 2007
Brown has a video on YouTube, and will be hoping to hold onto this riding against 2 strong challenges. It has been suggested that Brown has an inside track to be the next Minister of Sustainable Resource Development (he certainly has the background).

Len Borowski is running on a platform of electoral reform - a smart move in this riding. He ran here in 2004, capturing 2,600 votes. It's worth noting that the voter turn-out here was appallingly low in 2004, and Len - being 4 years wiser - knows he's going to need to get 1700 more voters to come out and vote for him to win here. Len is an active volunteer as well, and has spent many years involved with the Alberta Liberals. The appetite for "change" in this riding is debatable - what is not, though, is the need for the voters to re-engage with the process... or perhaps more accurately, the need for the process to re-engage with the voters here. Neil Brown has done a good job for North Hill, but if Borowski can convince the voters that the PC's aren't the party to change the electoral system, and Brown bleeds some votes to the WAP, he's got a shot. The problem that such debates ultimately run into is the undeniable fact that it's not the SYSTEM that keeps electing the PC's to govern, it's the people themselves. The PC's just flat-out get more votes than anyone else - something that many Liberals, including their leader, can't seem to come to grips with. Borowski is instead going to have to hammer the PC's on fixed election dates, lobbyist rules (which Brown helped put into place to begin with), and accountability. The people of this riding want government that plays by the rules.

Tristan Ridley has GOT to be one of the youngest candidates in this election. To look at him, you'd be tempted to ask him for ID going into a movie rated "PG-13". A recent arrival to the city, Tristan is pursuing studies in Financial Management and Planning (I know, anathema to a New Democrat - I was just as shocked as you are). This was a weak riding for the NDP in 2004, and they're not putting much in the way of resources into this fight. Tristan's fighting for 3rd - but 4th is more realistic.

John Murdoch is running here for the Wildrose Alliance. This was the second-strongest riding for the Alliance in 2004, and Murdoch is a model candidate for them, combining their 2 biggest issues in this election: Electoral Reform, and Oil & Gas (he's CEO of Madison Energy Corp.). The reality of this riding is that the WAP message WORKS here - it's a riding full of hard-working people who don't want once-every-April tax savings, they want every-single-paycheque tax savings. Likewise, a lot of people in the riding are directly or indirectly affected by the oilpatch. There is a LOT of room for growth in the Wildrose Alliance support in this riding, and the party is trying like hell to pull this riding into the fold. There's at least as good a chance for Murdoch here (if not better) as for the Liberal Borowski - I said in an earlier post that Jane Morgan represented the WAP's best hope in Calgary. Murdoch is a close 2nd.

Nick Burman is an experienced manager in the health, finance and disability fields. This riding wasn't exceptionally kind to the Greens in 2004 - which is a touch unexpected, considering the presence of a major urban park in the riding. That said, the Greens won't put up much of a fight here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Race For Calgary North West

Calgary North West, located on the outskirts of the city, is one of Calgary's more exciting races. With the retirement of incumbent MLA Greg Melchin, the riding is wide open. Historically this well-to-do riding has higher-than-average voter turn-out, and features some of the most hotly contested battles in the province. This is a "blow-out free" riding most of the time, having elected both PC's and Liberals, and with strong candidates running for several parties in 2008 this election will be no exception.

There will be an all-candidates debate held for this riding:
Friday, February 29, 2008
7:00pm - 9:00pm
Upland Community Centre - Hawkwood
20 Hawkside Road NW

The Candidates:
Lindsay Blackett (PC)
Dale Martin D'Silva (Lib)
Collin Anderson (NDP)
Chris Jukes (WAP)
George Read (Grn)

Lindsay Blackett is, along with Leah Lawrence in Mountain View, the face of the new Progressive Conservatives. Despite partisan jabs to the contrary, the party's renewal since the election of Ed Stelmach as Leader has resulted in a slate of young, modern, urban and sophisticated candidates, from all backgrounds, faiths, genders and ethnicities. Blackett himself is a wonderfully engaging man, eager and open to discussing the issues facing Calgary North West as readily with complete strangers as he is with party insiders. The President of the Canadian Progress Club's Calgary Downtown chapter, Lindsay also has volunteered as a soccer coach (boo!) and a hockey coach (yay!). The Blackett Team has been running in Calgary North West as though their hair was on fire - the campaign is very visible, and has a lot of momentum. The smart money is on Lindsay Blackett winning the riding, and being a progressive and responsive MLA for the foreseeable future.

Dale Martin D'Silva is an energetic advocate for environmental issues and social justice. The real-estate developer is running on a platform of change and empowerment for Calgary North West. Against an incumbent with a record of non-responsiveness, D'Silva would stand a much better chance. He's still a viable contender here, though - he'll just need to work a bit harder against a candidate like Lindsay Blackett. D'Silva's impressive green credentials may be overlooked (which would be a shame), considering that the leader of the Greens is running in this riding. Polling suggests that Dale has a chance, depending on how well his team gets out the vote on March 3rd.

Collin Anderson is a 32-year Journeyman Communications Electrician - so, when your internet goes out and you can't read The Enlightened Savage, you know who to blame. Active in his union and a fan of the outdoors, Anderson is a good NDP candidate. The riding itself has been kind to the NDP in the past, however many of the altruistic types who would normally be inclined to vote NDP may instead park their votes with Green leader George Read. Don't look for an Anderson upset this time around.

Chris Jukes is a reasonably well-known local conservative advocate. A former writer for the Alberta Report magazine and an ordained Anglican minister, Jukes has a lot of influential friends on the right-hand side of the spectrum. He's running a pretty funny campaign, as his website can attest to - although I'm not so sure about the legality of his "Secret Stelmach Video" title. This isn't traditionally solid ground for the parties on the far right, although the royalty issue may give Jukes a shot in the arm.

As an aside: Why is it that every time I go to a website and a video starts running automatically, it's always a candidate on the right? No Red Tory, Liberal or New Democrat websites tell me what I want to watch... and anyone surfing to these sites at the office probably doesn't appreciate the blaring music that suddenly comes over their speakers...

George Read is the leader of the Alberta Greens, and is celebrating his 9th birthday this year (yes, he was born on February 29th). The choice of this riding is curious, as the Greens didn't do especially well here in 2004, but with no incumbent and close proximity to the mountain parks (and, therefore, environmentally-minded voters), it may prove to have been an inspired choice. Far from your typical image of a "tree-hugger", Read is a proud carnivore, and has been an effective political leader for the Greens in Alberta. George doesn't come off as extremely polished - but then again, neither did Ralph Klein. Don't let the lack of varnish fool you, though - this man knows what he's doing, and he's hoping to get himself, as well as 2 or 3 others, elected. I don't know if those hopes will come to fruition, especially for Read in Calgary North West, but I will state for the record that Alberta needs the influence of the Greens to help us kick our oil dependancy - sooner, rather than later. Unsustainable growth is no longer an option.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Race For Calgary North Hill (& Edmonton Riverview)

Do I really only have 6 of these left to go? Phew...

Calgary North Hill is an inner-city riding which may feature some of the most tech-savvy candidates in the province. This war is being waged on the InterWeb, using that... what's it called?... social networking... and featuring some pretty hot and heavy blogging. It's actually quite fun to watch. :-) The riding has been Tory Blue since 1971, although in 2004 PC Richard Magnus won the riding by only 1,000 votes. The general consensus in the riding is that Magnus was a less-than-effective voice for them, and the feeling is that it may cost the PC candidate in this election. The dynamic in this riding is very interesting... The PC's, Liberals, and NDP all have a chance here, and this riding was the best riding in the entire province for the Greens in 2004.

The Candidates:
Kyle Fawcett (PC)
Pat Murray (Lib)
John Chan (NDP)
Jane Morgan (WAP)
Kevin Maloney (Grn)
Jim Wright (SC)

Kyle Fawcett was the youngest elected official in Alberta in 2004, when he was elected as a trustee for the Calgary Board of Education. This professional research consultant is a youth baseball and football coach, and maintains a blog which, in the most recent posting, takes some swipes at one of his opponents. Fireworks! Fawcett is a young and vibrant candidate, who appeals more to the youth vote in a lot of ways than he does to the more traditional Tory voter, ages 40+ - that's not to say he DOESN'T appeal to the older voters, he's just much more popular among the youth. Fawcett may be the unlucky recipient of a lot of flack over the previous MLA's performance, so he's going to have to work double-hard to have a shot at this. By all accounts, he's doing just that.

Pat Murray has a pretty humorous video on his website, featuring the adventures of "Patman". The small business owner has also received an enthusiastic endorsement from ward 9 alderman Joe Ceci. The polling numbers for this riding suggest that Murray may benefit from several factors, not the least of which are the disenchantment with the outgoing PC MLA, and the splitting of the right-of-centre vote between 2 solid candidates. Considering how close this riding was in 2004, this is a VERY winnable riding for the Grits.

John Chan is a provincial employee, who has twice run in this area federally for the NDP. A tireless volunteer for more issues than can reasonably be listed here, Chan sustained GUNSHOT WOUNDS to both legs while working on a human rights monitoring project in Guatemala. This riding was very kind to the NDP prior to 1989, and could be inclined to support Chan based on traditional party support and his outstanding record of citizenship and engagement. I wouldn't bet money on it, but with the split on the right, anything is possible in North Hill.

Jane Morgan is an active blogger and poster to the "Project Alberta" boards. Intelligent as hell and the owner of a rapier wit, Morgan can more than handle herself, and would be a fantastic MLA. The former Jane Greydanus (Alliance candidate in the Calgary Elbow by-election) is a big wheel in the Wildrose Alliance, and is a tireless advocate for electoral and democratic reform. She stands to make a splash in the riding, with an extremely organized campaign, talking about issues that matter to the people of North Hill. If the Wildrose Alliance wins a riding in Calgary, I'd bet dollars to donuts that it's Jane Morgan in Calgary North Hill.

Kevin Maloney is a former campaign manager for the Greens in Calgary West (federal), and has a background in communications. Kevin has a video posted on his website, and to be honest he seems a little less than enthusiastic. This is a VERY strong riding for the Greens, the strongest in the province in 2004, in fact. That said, Maloney is in a tough spot, running against a multitude of strong candidates. I don't know if he has a shot at winning the riding, but if he can maintain the votes from 2004, or build on them, this will definitely be a "target riding" for the Greens in 2012 (or so).

Jim Wright is the holder of an International MBA, and has studied at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. A former executive assistant to a Lougheed cabinet minister, Wright is hoping that North Hill decides to go back to the future, and elect a SoCred. Of note, this riding voted the SoCred candidate into second place in each election until 1982, sometimes by less than 70 votes. So, the possibility of support IS there, if Wright can get his message out.

Edmonton Riverview elected Kevin Taft by a 7,000 vote margin in 2004. By all accounts, the spread will NOT be that large in 2008 - and the end result may be entirely different, for that matter. Taft has been the MLA here since 2001. Located just South-West of downtown, the riding includes the University of Alberta and the Grant MacEwan College Centre for Arts.

The Candidates:
Kevin Taft (Lib)
Wendy Andrews (PC)
Erica Bullwinkle (NDP)
Kyle Van Hauwaert (WAP)
Cameron Wakefield (Grn)

Kevin Taft wants to be the Premier of Alberta. Dr. Taft has a PhD in Business, and grew up in the riding. Elected Leader of the Alberta Liberals in early 2004, he handily won here later that year. Taft has undeniably been a very different leader than any recent leader of the Alberta Liberals. Under Taft, the Liberals have taken a much more aggressive stance against the PC's, and have even dared to suggest that, rather than electing a strong Liberal opposition, Albertans might consider electing a Liberal Government instead. Under his leadership, the Liberals have re-emerged as a viable political option in Alberta. Taft's personality rubs some people the wrong way, however, as he is often seen as being too professorial - if there's one thing Albertans hate, it's being made to feel stupid. Polling numbers in this riding show that Taft is in for a fight here, polling at 35% to the PC party's 28%. In the ultimate slap in the face, Taft may lead his Liberals to break through in Calgary, whilst simultaneously losing his seat in Riverview. He's still favoured to hold this seat - but not with any 7,000 seat cushion.

Wendy Andrews is playing the role of David in the Riverview production of David and Goliath. A strong environmentalist, Andrews has held the post of President of the PC Riverview Association. An extremely active volunteer in the community, Wendy is benefiting from the PC "Pull-Out-All-The-Stops" campaign to knock off Taft in his home riding (such operations have been successful in the past). With a very dedicated volunteer base, and a well-written blog, Andrews is making a serious run at Riverview, and could be the dragon-slayer that the PC's are looking for. Ironically, this would open the door for leader-in-waiting Bronco, which probably scares the PCs a lot more than the prospect of another campaign against a Taft-led Liberal party.

Erica Bullwinkle is the proud owner of the coolest name in the 2008 election. An office staffer for the retiring Raj Pannu, former NDP leader, Erica is a community volunteer and education activist. Riverview is by no means a strong riding for the NDP, and a 3rd place finish here will be the most the NDP can hope for.

Kyle Van Hauwaert is an engaging entrepreneur, currently pursuing a Bachelor's of Science from the University of Alberta. A big proponent of what he calls "Direct Democracy Through Technology", the photogenic candidate will likely find it difficult to make inroads here, as the Alliance garnered fewer than 320 votes here in 2004.

Cameron Wakefield is a 5-year member of the Alberta Greens, and a current student of civil engineering at the U of A. The Greens narrowly finished 4th here in 2004, and will be looking to finish as high as 3rd, depending on the GOTV organization in place for the Greens.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Race for Calgary Mountain View

Calgary Mountain View is notoriously fickle - as a general rule, incumbents have had a hard time here. The NDP held the riding from 1986 to 1993, the PC's from 1993 to 2004, and Liberal David Swann won the riding in 2004. Including the communities of Parkdale, Hillhurst, Montgomery, and Bridgeland (among others), the riding is comprised mainly of older homes in more established neighbourhoods. In the past 2 elections, the voter turn-out has been under 50%, so the candidate who gets the vote out the best may wake up on March 4th as an MLA. If they need someone to run their constituency office - I'm available. ;-) Dr. David Swann (Lib) is seeking re-election.

The Candidates:
David Swann (Lib)
Leah Lawrence (PC)
John Donovan (NDP)
Cory Morgan (WAP)
Juliet Burgess (Grn)

Dr. David Swann is the Liberal environment critic, and has been an outspoken defender of the Elbow and Bow river watersheds, and a proponent for the full protection of Kananaskis Country (currently, just over 50% is park-land; the rest allows logging, hunting, drilling for gas, etc.). Mountain View is a riding with a lot of environmentally aware people, and it tends to attract environment-focused candidates. Perhaps the biggest thing going for Swann is the fact that he's just a genuinely likeable guy - Even in the recent candidate's forum here, partisan PC observers felt genuinely bad for the man when he was being pummeled by his opponent on several of the issues. When your opponents feel bad for you when you're being corrected on the facts, that's a good sign that you're a pretty likeable person. It doesn't guarantee he'll be re-elected, but it's a big bonus working for him. He won this riding by 3,000 votes in 2004, but the PC's are pulling out all the stops to try and take him out.

Leah Lawrence is one of the star candidates for the Progressive Conservatives in this election. She's been keeping a blog going, both before and during the campaign, so kudos for that. A national and international participant in climate change and energy technology development, Lawrence helped to found Climate Change Central, Canada's first public/private partnership on climate change, in 2000. This engineer, economist and published writer is an extremely well-spoken and passionate candidate, whose environmental pedigree would qualify her for the leadership of the Greens. Lawrence also handles herself very well in forums, as she was the "pummel-er" of Swann in the Mountain View forum last week. The PC's want this riding back, BADLY, and Leah is very well positioned to take the whole ball of wax. As one insider pointed out: "Why would Mountain View want to be the home of the environment critic when they can elect Lawrence, and be the home of the Minister instead?"

John Donovan finished 4th here in 2004. John is an avid outdoors enthusiast (big surprise - he IS running in Mountain View, after all) and dedicated advocate for the poor and working poor of the city. While the NDP didn't even garner 800 votes here in 2004, the riding has elected New Democrats in the past, and Donovan is in good company in being rejected by Mountain View's residents - Jim Prentice ran and lost here for the PC's in 1986. Worked out okay for Jim in the long run. John's strategy thus far seems to be to let the Liberals and PC's smash into each other, and hope to sneak up the middle. It's not all that likely, but with voter turn-out so low in 2001 and 2004, if the NDP decides to put a priority on this riding... nahhhhh. I can't bring myself to type it.

Cory Morgan is a likeable enough fellow, if you don't know anything about his political past. The founder of the Alberta Independence Party, Morgan also ran in 2004 in the riding of Highwood for the Separation Party of Alberta, where he received 299 votes. In that same election, the Alliance received 589 votes in Mountain View. Morgan is running on a platform focused on electoral reform. There may be room in Mountain View for the Wildrose Alliance to gain some ground, however the people of the riding may be hesitant to vote for someone who has a well-established desire to withdraw their province from confederation. Morgan may break 1000 votes, but he won't do much better than that.

Juliet Burgess is trying to improve on a 3rd place finish for the Greens in Mountain View from 2004. The riding, as we've established, is inclined to listen to what the Greens have to say. Burgess is just a shade over 20 years old, and yet is already experienced in the political field, having run as an 18 year-old in the 2005 Federal Election for the Greens in Calgary Nose Hill, pulling in 3700 votes. Actively involved in the local theatre scene, Burgess may inherit a lot of the votes of disgruntled Tories uncomfortable with the Alliance candidate. Not enough to win, but enough to make the people of Calgary (and, one would hope, the broadcasters who hold the debates) sit up and take notice.

The Race For Calgary Montrose


It's not just the name of a popular Family Guy character (a name that my friends who witnessed my behaviour in the mid-to-late 90's claim is a perfect nick-name for me - not sure why...), it's also a perfect description of Calgary Montrose. Municipally and provincially, when election time comes around this riding goes absolutely off-the-reservation crazy.

Ward 10 Alderman scandal? Here.
Michael O'Malley, the former Catholic School trustee who sued the board while sitting on it? Here.
The PC Party of Alberta winning a lawsuit against its own constituency board? Here.
Human rights complaints, on the flimsy basis of "Christophobia" (the alleged Christophobes in question - Christians.)? Here.

For 14 years the home of the man many consider to be one of the least effective MLA's in recent memory, Montrose has 2 "nevers" in its history: It has NEVER elected an MLA who wasn't a Tory. And, it has NEVER had voter turn-out of more than 50%. This riding will be had by whomever runs the best (or dirtiest) campaign, and (more importantly) by the candidate who runs the best Get Out The Vote operation on March 3rd. There are already allegations of impropriety being thrown around all over the place, and we're still a week from voting.

The Candidates:
Manmeet Bhullar (PC)
Michael Embaie (Lib)
Al Brown (NDP)
Said Abdulbaki (WAP)
Fred Clemens (Grn)
Ron Leech (Ind.)

Manmeet Bhullar has 2 biographies, depending on who you ask. If you ask a PC supporter, they'll tell you that he has served as a senior member of national campaigns (which would have put him at ages 23 or 25 at the time, being only 27 now) and is in his second year of Law school after obtaining a Bachelor of Arts (Sociology) from Athabasca University. They'll tell you he led campaigns that raised over $50,000 for the Calgary Inter-Faith Food Bank, and almost $100,000 for the Calgary Health Region. They'll tell you he has advised Jim Prentice and the Prime Minister's Office. Non-PC supporters, though, mention that Manmeet is indeed in his second year of Law school - in Ontario. They wonder whether he'll drop out of school, or be another MIA MLA if he's elected. They mention his family connections within the PC party and the Federal Tories, and wonder aloud about the circumstances and possible favouritism that saw him appointed as a candidate here. The word "carpet-bagger candidate" gets used a lot. The former board members of the PC Association in Montrose, for the most part, want nothing to do with his campaign (which again, depending on who you're listening to tell the story, might be a blessing for Manmeet). What can NOT be denied, though, if the sheer volume and dedication of his volunteers. Team Bhullar is absolutely everywhere in this riding, trying to spread the message and get their guy elected. If sheer force of will of one's volunteers can get someone elected, Manmeet may be needing to take a leave of absence from Queen's after this semester.

Michael Embaie is a hugely respected candidate, very well known in the ethnic and social services communities in Calgary. A former UN employee, Embaie is currently a sessional instructor at the University of Calgary's Faculty of Social Work. A long-time advocate for marginalized persons, Embaie sees the voters of Montrose as being marginalized as well by their "representation" over the past 14 years. Running for a seat in Calgary with a message of empowerment is almost always a good strategy, and the appetite for change is especially powerful in Montrose. Time will tell whether the voters think that Bhullar is change enough, or whether they may want to "cleanse the palate" with Embaie.

Al Brown is an electrician, union executive and community activist. Given that Montrose contains a high percentage of recent arrivals to the city (and, in a lot of cases, the country), the casual observer could be forgiven for assuming that this would be prime NDP real estate, given the party's focus on social programs, assistance, and the like. The reality, though, is quite different - many of the recent arrivals in Montrose number among the hardest workers in the city. They work long hours, want to pay as little tax as they can, and expect that their hard work will benefit their own families more than the government's pet programs. Not looking good for Brown, who is trying to improve on the NDP's 4th-place finish here in 2004.

Said Abdulbaki, on the other hand, could surprise a lot of people. The businessman and owner of Pizza Time (which, for the record, makes a TREMENDOUS pie) is a first time candidate for the Wildrose Alliance. This was one of the Alliance's stronger ridings in the city in 2004, and the "lower my taxes and stay out of my life!" message of Paul Hinman might play very well here. One area that Said is going to have to focus on to attract voters from the other parties is the Wildrose hallmark of electoral reform - if anyone knows how messed up the current system is, it's the people of these communities. Abdulbaki is going to have to run a very aggressive GOTV effort, but if he does, he could get a few thousand votes - which, in Montrose, might be all you need.

Fred Clemens is a former Park Warden from Ontario, with an education in environmental studies, and currently works in commercial real estate. What's curious is that Clemens, an avid outdoorsman and athletics coach, is running in Montrose instead of closer to his home in Calgary Currie. Montrose is not fertile ground for the Greens, and Clemens' qualifications indicate he would be a valuable asset to the Greens in the legislature - so why wouldn't they position him to succeed, by running him in a riding they could possibly win? It's a curious choice - but Clemens is a solid candidate, no matter where he's running. He's just got no chance to win in Montrose.

Ron Leech won the nomination for the PC's in a nomination meeting that, according to party rules, was flawed and therefore ruled illegitimate. The PC's then appointed Bhullar as their candidate for Montrose. Leech - an outspoken pastor at Eastside Church, has really muddied the waters in the riding with such statements as "(Leech) is fully supported by the constituency board of the Calgary Montrose PC Association", and his campaign office staff refer to him as the "Progressive Conservative candidate Ron Leech" (at least, when I called them they did). Further, many former PC's affiliated with the former MLA here (Hung Pham) have apparently been sewing confusion at the door, by suggesting Leech is the PC candidate. Given these examples, there's little question as to why the PC's weren't comfortable appointing Leech after the "non"-ination meeting. As a pastor, Leech should know that wishing doesn't make it so. What he COULD have parlayed into a positive ("proof" that Ed doesn't care about Calgarians) his campaign has instead dropped the ball on, and he's seen as running for the PC nomination and running against Ed Stelmach, rather than trying to be elected as an independent MLA and to represent the interests of Montrose in the Legislature. If he gets a huge push from the "values voters" who would be inclined to support a pastor, he can win - but it'll take busloads of supporters (40 or more busloads, actually). If he does win, it would be interesting to see him in the Legislature, with a pending human rights complaint against the Premier (who attends Sunday mass, by the way), on the basis of "Christophobia".

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Race For Calgary McCall

Some ridings, you can win without even trying. McCall is not one of them. Although it has been electing Progressive Conservatives since 1975, ethnic issues are HUGE in McCall, and the person who plays the "ethnic politics" game the best can win this riding, handily. Just as an example, only 58% of the residents in this riding speak English as the primary language at home - a full 36% speak something other than one of Canada's 2 official languages, and 17% speak Punjabi. Likewise, 36% of the riding's residents were born in Alberta, while almost 33% were born in Asia or the Middle East. A large Sikh temple dominates the local skyline. Exacerbating the issues in this riding is the fact that, before the Edmonton Castledowns recount in 2004, this riding went to Shiraz Sharrif of the PC's with their smallest margin of victory in the province (245 votes). This election will be a complete re-match, with the PC's, Liberals, NDP and Wildrose Alliance all running the same candidates they did in 2004.

The Candidates:
Shiraz Sharrif (PC)
Darshan Kang (Lib)
Preet Sihota (NDP)
Ina Given (WAP)
Heather Brocklesby (Grn)

Shiraz Sharrif is a 4-term MLA, and the incumbent here. A child welfare worker before being first elected in a 1995 by-election, Shiraz does a lot of volunteer work in the community and is generally seen as a nice guy. He ran into serious problems here in 2004, though, with Darshan Kang coming within 300 votes of sending Sharrif to the "waiting for pension to kick in" line. Sharrif is very aware that he is in a precarious position, although it probably helps that he won't suffer much from the "post-Ralph hangover" that many PC incumbents will notice - Ralph's coat-tails weren't all that long in McCall.

Darshan Kang has seen the promised land - in 2004, he was tantalizingly close to victory, and he's pulling out all the stops this time around. As of February 10th, Kang had reportedly knocked on more than 17,000 doors in the riding, and had only 2 streets left to go. Likewise, Kang's volunteers have been all over the place, giving the impression to the casual observer that they're WAY out in front, just by way of visibility. You can bet that Darshan's people are going to be going full-bore in their Get Out The Vote efforts - they know all too well how a few votes can make the difference. I am going to be very surprised if I wake up on March 4th, and Darshan Kang isn't the MLA-Elect for McCall.

Preet Sihota finished last in McCall in 2004, getting just 264 votes. Don't be surprised if he finishes last again this time - it's nothing about Preet himself, but from Kang's perspective, if they convince the 263 left-leaning voters in the riding who aren't Preet himself to vote for Darshan Kang in 2004, Kang is the incumbent right now. You'd better believe every single NDP lawn sign in McCall is being used as a target for the Liberals, to knock on that door and convert the occupants. Preet is a realtor and advocate for public heath care.

Ina Given is one of my favourite WAP candidates. Besides being one of only 7 women running for the Wildrose Alliance (a subject that, believe me, will be covered in later postings), Ina works with special needs children, recently read Barack Obama's book (how was it, Ina?), and listens to one of my all-time favourite Canadian bands, the Arrogant Worms. Okay, so I'm lifting a lot of this info from her candidate profile that ran in the paper today - turns out the mainstream media is good for something after all. Ina's husband is the WAP candidate for Calgary Cross, and she finished 3rd here in 2004. Although the riding may not have the right demographics to go Wildrose in 2008, a successful Get Out The Vote operation by Ina's campaign on voting day could reap some good rewards for the party's vote total here - and hurt Shiraz Sharrif's re-elections chances in the process.

Heather Brocklesby is a "true believer" - she's been in the Greens for 5 years, and for all the right reasons. The legal assistant is running for MLA, but also for serious bragging rights, as her husband ran for the Greens here in 2004, and pulled in 359 votes. For all KINDS of reasons, Heather wants to beat that total. She minored in PoliSci in university and (obviously) assisted with her husband's campaign in 2004, so she's not going into this wide-eyed and unprepared. She's not going to win - but she may be able to change some minds, and make a difference - which is entirely the point. Heather lists Northern Saskatchewan as her favourite vacation spot - what's the attraction: the trees, or the mosquitoes?

Who Says Democracy Is Dead?

49 votes.

Nation, as of the time of this post being written, there have been 49 votes cast in the poll on this blog, asking "Should The Enlightened Savage reveal his secret identity?". The "Yes" and "No" sides are in a statistical dead heat, with the "You mean this isn't daveberta?" side playing the role of potential kingmaker. This is, by FAR, the most votes I've ever gotten on a poll on this site.

So what I want from you, is something to back up your response... some of you have other ways to get in touch with me, some even KNOW who the man behind the Nation is, and I value your input especially. But for the rank-and-file citizens of E.S. Nation, I ask you: WHY should the Enlightened Savage reveal/not reveal his secret identity?

Respond as a comment to this post, please. I look forward to everyone's opinion - yours might be the one that makes up my mind for me. :)

Fish Creek Shenanigans Update - Much Ado About Nothing

Nation, you read about the allegations that "the street" had made regarding a school council meeting being held at Haultain School in the riding of Calgary Fish Creek.

The Chair of the council, Shane Campsall, got in touch with me almost immediately after that post to clarify the position of the council, which is included in the comments under the original post.

I'm happy to report that sources who were in attendance have relayed to me that nothing untoward went on at the meeting - which is a credit to all of the candidates in attendance, and their teams. A factual, reasoned discussion of the education system is what's best for Haultain, Calgary Fish Creek, and the province, not partisan games - and that reasoned discussion is what we got, so kudos to Heather Forsyth, Laura Shutiak, and Eric Leavitt for keeping things civil.

One of the candidates was apparently running a bit late (it happens, especially in Calgary traffic, and when running a campaign), but eventually arrived and gave a quick 5-minute rundown on their party's plans for education, answered one question, and then got up and left - they had door-knocking to do, they suggested.

Nation, door-knocking is of vital importance in a campaign. As a matter of physics, it's virtually impossible to knock on every single door, so the more you can get, the better... but if you're addressing a school council, talking about issues that effect the school and the hundreds of families that have students attending said school, you may want to spend the extra 30 minutes to answer questions, at least PRETEND you care what the other candidates are saying, and show the council that you value dialogue, and their invitation to speak. Failure to do so suggests to the school council, and by proxy those hundreds of voting families (which would take at least 3 to 4 hours to door-knock, even if they all lived on the same street) that it's not THEIR time and issues that dominate your agenda, but rather your own - not a good message to send, as someone trying to be an MLA.

A formal debate may be in the works for Fish Creek sometime next week - hopefully, no one will have to leave early.

Where's The Money Going To Come From, Kevin?

My friend Duncan makes an excellent point about the Liberal costing of their platform.

Just as important as "WHAT will you spend money on?", and "HOW MUCH will you spend on it?" is the question that Albertans, traditionally, have been quick to ask their federal leaders, but not pursued quite as aggressively with their provincial government: "WHERE will this money come from?"

Nobody expects the Liberals to release their first budget in the middle of the campaign... but, we know where the dollars are coming from for Ed's spending promises - we're running a surplus. Taft had promised the surplus away within a few days of the writ being dropped, so where is the extra money coming from? They've committed to raising royalties an additional 20% (nah, THAT won't cause some of the big players, and their tax and royalty dollars - to leave), and figure that will pump an extra $1.9 Billion into the economy - IF everyone stays in the game (they don't mention that last part). Since they committed 30% of royalties to certain endowments, that leaves $1.3 Billion - again, if everyone stays. What they neglect to mention is, if they have committed 30% of ALL Royalties, then while their Royalty hike grosses us an extra $1.3 Billion in general revenue, it also sucks 30% of the $10 Billion we annually receive for our oil and gas... I'm no economist (Kirk, can you run the numbers when you're done moving offices?), but I'm pretty sure that means our NET from this exercise, all other things remaining equal, is a loss to program spending of $2 Billion - or we don't cut $2 Billion worth of programs, and instead we a) raise taxes, b) institute a provincial sales tax, c) run a deficit, or d) all of the above.

ON A BRIGHTER NOTE, I've got to say I am simply delighted that both of the parties vying for control of the government have seen fit to release a near-fully costed (or one-third of fully costed in the case of the Liberals, according to a PC press release) platform. The voters deserve to know what they're being asked to buy with their franchise. I'll go into detail analysing those platforms in the next few days. In the meantime, check them out for yourselves:

Costed Progressive Conservative Platform
Costed Alberta Liberal Platform

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Race For Calgary Mackay (& Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville)

On the city's northern border, Mackay includes such communities as Panorama, Harvest Hills, Country Hills, and Coventry. The riding is far from uniform in its demographic, as even within the communities themselves the residences range from million-dollar homes to starter condos. In 2004, PC Gary Mar won the riding by 3000 votes. With Mar departed for greener pastures, the riding is up for grabs.

The Candidates:
Teresa Woo-Paw (PC)
Tianna Melnyk (Lib)
Daena Diduck (NDP)
Rob Gregory (WAP)
Ryan Smith (Grn)

Teresa Woo-Paw hopes to hold this riding for the Tories. A former chair of the Calgary Board of Education (the board, in fact, that was so dysfunctional in 1999 that she asked Minister of Education Lyle Oberg to fire the lot of them - which he did), Woo-Paw is lauded for her work with the Ethno-Cultural Council of Calgary, and many other organizations that aid recent arrivals to Calgary and Canada. While she has some name recognition to long-term residents, she will find it challenging to make the jump from local school board politics to the down-and-dirty world of provincial politics.

Tianna Melnyk is a teacher and community volunteer. She'll be looking to build on the 2,600 votes that the Liberal candidate received here in 2004, running against a popular incumbent in Gary Mar. A drive through the riding makes it quite clear she's not winning the sign war - but it could very well be that her efforts (and budget) are being spent elsewhere. The contrast her campaign hopes to paint between she and Woo-Paw is the current, front-line teacher versus the chair of a dysfunctional board from 9 years ago.

Daena Diduck is the vice-president of the Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Association of Calgary, vice-president of Calgary's Korinnya Ukrainian Choir, and participates in the Calgary branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. I guess that means she's Ukrainian... or that she really, REALLY likes perogies (with bacon... mmmmm...). Diduck's big issues include the affordable housing crunch (which is felt, to a degree in Mackay) and the high cost of post-secondary education. This riding was NOT kind to the NDP in 2004, as their candidate finished 5th (beating only an independent named "Paul Martin", in Calgary... gee, wonder why HE lost...). If they can effectively double their vote this time around, they've got a good chance of finishing 3rd.

Rob Gregory is a former cop and crown prosecutor, so you can just imagine where his policy emphasis lies - which may play well in Mackay, where there is quite a bit of vandalism and petty crime. Gregory is also a visible WAP candidate, with a campaign vehicle that resembles the Devil's Ambulance - go to his website to see a picture (I think if I was bleeding to death and that thing pulled up, I'd tell them I'd wait for the next one to come along). Gregory now runs a successful traffic ticket defence agency. This was one of the Alliance's strongest Calgary ridings in 2004, pulling in 640 votes. The policies of the party, combined with the background and visibility of the candidate make this an interesting race, especially with no incumbent holding an advantage. Can Rob Gregory beat the odds? Tune in on March 3rd to find out...

Ryan Smith breaks my heart, as an Oilers fan, every time I read his name. Wrong spelling, but you get the idea... the holder of a degree in economics, the Green candidate works at EnCana (yes, you read that right). An active member of the party for the past couple of years, Ryan will be trying to build on a 443 vote result from 2004. I don't know how receptive Mackay will be to the Green message - they've got a lot of other issues that, in their minds, demand more immediate solutions than the environment. That said, a young candidate with new ideas can often stir the imagination of the electorate. If he can get the party behind him, Smith can turn some heads.

Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville is a rural riding located just to the East of Edmonton. Held for 2 terms in the 1980's by the NDP, the riding elected Ed Stelmach, a former county Reeve, as their MLA in 1993. Ed's still around. The riding, like many rural ridings, has a higher-than-average rate of voter participation, in this case averaging in the 70-80% area (the entire province averaged less than 47% in 2004). Including such bustling metropolises as Bruderheim, Ft. Saskatchewan, Lamont, Tofield and Vegreville, the 28,000 or so voters of the riding are hard-working people with no time for "style over substance" - a philosophy that should be evident, considering who's been representing them in the Legislature for the past 14 years. Their incumbent MLA, Ed Stelmach, is seeking re-election. He also happens to be the 13th Premier of the Province of Alberta, and leader of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta (if you didn't know that, you should probably stop reading now).

The Candidates:
Ed Stelmach (PC)
Earl J. Woods (Lib)
Clayton Marsden (NDP)
Ryan Scheie (Grn)

Ed Stelmach was born in Lamont 57 years ago, and left the U of A pre-law program to run the family farm at age 22. He was elected Reeve of Lamont County at age 36, and MLA 6 years later, knocking off a popular NDP incumbent in the process. He has been the MLA for this area since 1993. He is absolutely... not... going... to... come... even... close... to... losing... this... seat. Period. This is, without a doubt, the safest seat in the province. The people of the riding are absolutely thrilled that "their guy" is the Premier, and the attack ads against Ed have made them even more determined to send him back to the Legislature with a landslide in his home riding. Everything that the snarky media in the cities says disapprovingly about Ed... "unsophisticated... not flashy... hee-haw... back-woods... farmer... too measured..." makes him even more beloved here. The Wildrose Alliance isn't even bothering to run someone, and it's the kind of riding they'd stand a decent chance in - if the Premier wasn't running here. They know better - and now so do you.

Earl J. Woods is a former truck driver, television co-host, researcher and writer. He's running in large part as result of his (then) bride-to-be's horrendous experience with the healthcare system. No joke - go read it on his site for yourself. It's horrifying. I've experienced similar issues here in Calgary, and just because we're used to it doesn't make it right, or okay. Woods is the inheritor of a candidacy that saw the Liberals finish a strong second to Stelmach in 2004, but still 3,000 votes behind. I suspect the margin will be much larger this time around - but that's no fault of Earl Woods... it's just the way the cookie crumbles.

Clayton Marsden is a union tradesman, make no mistake about it. Even his official campaign photo includes him wearing his work helmet, complete with union decal. An advocate for labour law reform, Marsden is hoping his candidacy gets him the name recognition necessary to further those goals - he can't possibly think he has a shot at winning. The NDP finished 4,500 votes behind Stelmach in 2004. If Taft's "Urban-centric, attack Ed" campaign turns off enough left-leaning voters in the riding, Marsden could possibly finish 2nd.

Ryan Scheie is a 21 year-old who is brave enough to go into a fight he knows he can't win. An economics student at the U of A, he hails from this riding and volunteers in the community. This is the first time a Green has run in the riding.

The Race for Calgary Lougheed

Day late and a dollar short, Nation. My apologies. And a-waaaaaay we go!

Located in the city's far South-West, Lougheed is a mixture of older neighbourhoods like Woodbine and (parts of ) Canyon Meadows, and newer areas like Evergreen and Bridlewood. Formed in 1993, Lougheed's first MLA was Jim Dinning, who finished second in the race for the PC leadership in 2006 despite having been out of politics for nearly a decade. The riding has been held by Progressive Conservative MLA's for its entire existence (historically favouring them 2 votes to 1 over the Liberal candidate), and is currently the home riding of Dave Rodney, who is seeking re-election.

The Candidates:
Dave Rodney (PC)
Lori Czerwinski (Lib)
Clint Marko (NDP)
Derrick Jacobson (WAP)
Bernie Amell (Grn)
G. Keith Laurie (Ind.)

Dave Rodney is the incumbent MLA, having won the riding in 2004 by just over 3,000 votes. Never one to be accused of a lack of confidence, Rodney (the first Canadian to scale Mt. Everest TWICE - if you don't believe me, ask his license plate) isn't letting his relatively small Facebook group slow him down. He's also a very excited father-to-be, expecting his first in April. The beneficiary of several spending announcements, including at least 2 new schools to be built in his area, it's easy to assume that Rodney will coast to victory here... I, however, make no such assumptions. A lot of the people in the South of this riding make their money through oil & gas, and they have to spend an hour or more in traffic each way every morning because there's no South-West leg of the ring road - which would run right through the riding. Both of those issues are dangerous ones for Rodney and the PC's in this riding. He's still the favourite - but not a shoo-in.

Lori Czerwinski is the proud owner of one of the better-looking websites in this campaign. The teacher and education advocate is in a position where it will be hard to play to her strengths, as the riding is getting new schools, and student test results are leading the nation... capitalizing on the infrastructure problems plaguing the riding would be a strategy that could bear fruit, although she'll likely want to stay far, far away from any royalty discussion considering her party's view on the issue. To close the 3,000 vote gap with Rodney, she'll have to bank on Ed's low approval rating in Calgary, and then either convince 2,000 Tory voters to stay home, or 1,000 of them to vote for her. Tough? Absolutely. Impossible? No more so than, say, climbing Everest. Twice. It's been done...

Clint Marko is being depended upon by the NDP to salvage their presence in this riding... The New Democrats finished dead last here (5th place) in 2004, and Marko is the ideal NDP candidate: Involved with his union, a tradesman (Electrician, in his case), lover of the arts and the outdoorsy-type. Marko can count on the core NDP voters in the riding, but he's going to have to chip away at Czerwinski's support to improve the end result this time around.

Derrick Jacobson is old-school. In Alliance terms, that makes him as Reform as Reform can be... the Alberta Alliance finished 4th here in 2004, and Jacobson's message of protest, democratic reform and political accountability combined with the party message of lower taxes and a return to the previous royalty regime could play very well in this riding. Derrick has pledged to donate his entire MLA salary to community associations in the riding if elected. He's a dark horse, to be sure, but one to watch - he may just be the right guy, in the right riding...

Bernie Amell is an expert in the design of constructed wetlands for water treatment - running in a riding that stands to benefit from such expertise. He is a long-time volunteer and activist for watershed protection, who credits his grandchildren for his green conscience - he wants to protect the world they're going to inherit from him. This was a remarkably strong riding for the Greens in 2004, when they finished 3rd. Many people who move to this riding do so for the views and the proximity to the mountain parks and Fish Creek Provincial Park - they're nature lovers. Greens at heart, if not in the ballot box. The presence of the area less than a half hour from the logged parts of Kananaskis and the (mostly) unprotected Elbow River watershed gives him ammunition to fight with - let's see if he pulls the trigger.

G. Keith Laurie is an active retiree who thinks that government should take an "Alberta First" approach when dealing with the feds and other provinces... with a background in education, Laurie identifies himself as a "secular centrist - a little to the right and a little to the left". His website lists his opinions on a variety of issues. I'd encourage voters to check out his website - the other party platforms are accessible, but as a man without a party, you've got to do some digging to find what Laurie stands for. Agree with him or not (I personally tend to disagree with most of his positions), you've got to read it to be informed. :)

George Read Steps Into The Ring

Nation, as promised: George Read's response to last night's televised leaders debate.

I know, it's not the same when you don't have 4 other leaders screaming at you and calling you on your numbers... but then again, Hinman was largely ignored by the "Big 3" last night, do we really have any reason to believe they would have paid any more attention to the Green leader?

Check it out, and judge his answers for yourself.

15-Second Leaders Debate.

Taft - "The Tories are old and bad at governance. PLEASE LIKE ME!!!"

Hinman - "You're all socialists... lower my taxes. Do I sound enough like Preston Manning?"

Stelmach - "We're working on that, or something close to it. Stop throwing things at me, Thomson..."

Mason - "Here's how to fix things... Taft, you're an idiot."

Well, Nation, the debate has come and gone. Much has been written already, so I'll try to be as succinct as possible.

Grades are not based on an objective scale, but rather on whether the leader in question achieved what they needed to... So, a "C" grade in the debate could be issued to someone who did remarkably better on the mic than someone who got a "B" - they just didn't do what they NEEDED to do, going into an election.

Kevin Taft had to come out of this debate looking like he was ready to lead the hottest economy in the Western Hemisphere... his goal was to shore up support on the Left in light of sagging polling numbers in Edmonton, and try to poach some Red Tories. I believe he failed on both counts. His attempts to seem congenial looked forced and disingenuous, and he spent far too much time criticizing the policies of Ralph Klein, who (when last I checked) isn't running for anything in 2008. He certainly had his moments, but he came across as too ascerbic, especially when yelling back and forth with Mason. Taft had to lay out his plan for how to run the province starting on March 4th, and instead he spent most of the debate either picking nits with Brian Mason or talking about the past. Grade: C+

Paul Hinman came across as a old-school Reformer, which will play very well in the rural South, where he's hoping realistically to win 3 to 5 seats, including his own. His mention of competition in healthcare, and his somewhat old-fashioned response regarding child-care aren't going to sway many centrist Tories over to his camp, but this province had hundreds of thousands of federal Reform Party members back in the late 90's - and he got his message across that they have someone to vote for in this election. He seemed a little uncomfortable, and much too interested in his notes than the camera, but the content was idealogically sound, even if the delivery was less than perfect. Grade: B+

Ed Stelmach went in as the guy with the most to lose. Although the bar was set fairly low for Ed based on his notoriously un-Ralph-like speaking style, he still had to convince viewers that he was a far better manager than he was a debater. Ed knew his figures, although he did seem to have a couple of brain cramps, ignoring one question to go off an a whole other tangent, and not seeming to get Mason's point about a 10-year plan to end homelessness being far too long. He missed a few obvious opportunities to slam his attackers, but as we've said, Ed's not a "debate guy". He could have stood to start a few more sentences with the phrase "Since I became Premier 14 months ago..." and then gone on to list an accomplishment. He came out of this relatively unscathed, despite what the Liberal website suggests, and that's a "win" as far as Ed is concerned. He even had a couple of unexpected moments where he came off as a bit "fiery" (again, not the Klein "go &#*@ yourself" fiery, but fiery for Ed), and seemed at times to be "the average guy" - not a super-slick politician, throwing up his hands at the constant interruptions of the othe leaders, etc... He may have lost a few votes on the far right to Hinman over tax policy, but the combination of Ed's steady-if-not-spectacular performance and Taft's carping about the past likely kept the Red Tories inclined to vote PC rather than Liberal. Grade: B

Brian Mason doesn't believe for a second he is going to be Alberta's next Premier. I think he used the term "NDP Government" once, and then stopped because he knew he wouldn't be able to keep a straight face. His job last night was to convince Liberal voters, especially in Edmonton, that he was the man to lead the Opposition for the next 4 years. He came off as a man with constructive ideas, if perhaps a little too tied into party doctrine (something all 4 leaders could be accused of on occasion). He was making suggestions as to how to make things better, instead of complaining contantly about how bad things were... and he launched a pretty effective attack on Taft, trying to lump Kevin in with the Tories, and therefore painting the NDP as the only real left-of-centre alternative. Overall, Mason's performance played well among his core, and likely swayed some northern Liberals over to Team Orange. Grade: B+

Two B plusses, a B, and a C plus... clearly, I'm not issuing the cabinet report cards. :)

Alberta Green leader George Read has pledged to have his responses up on YouTube by 12 noon... I'll link, if and when it happens.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Debate: After the Third Commercial Break

Darn you Paul Brandt, and your cute cowboy hat wearing ways! I just heard a longing "sigh" from next to me...

Trynacity is asking for confirmation of Ed's environmental/economy numbers... He's not giving any. Ed, listen to the questions - they're not all topics that were covered in your debate prep session... Mason talking about wind, California emission standards, says the PC's are holding up real change on the environment... Taft makes a decent point, in a decent way. Hinman is no friend of environmentalists, that's for sure. He's talking about economics, and nothing but. Taft just talked to the panel like they're 6 year-olds. Oooo... Mason scores with a "Gotchya" against Taft on hard caps, and his voting record. Ed is doing well to let Taft and Mason kill each other. Nice aside from Ed: "you had your chance - this isn't the legislative assembly" (a sore point of mine). Ed making the point that you can't put things up in the air for 5 years waiting to set targets.

Naidoo asks about infrastructure - $6 Billion infrastructure deficit. Hinman makes a decent point about buying your groceries from 7-Eleven. Don't know if it's relevant, but it's funny. Ed's not talking about making up the deficit, he's talking about the new building. Mason makes an EXCELLENT point about doubling up your mortgage payment while letting your roof and foundation crumble. Taft says we need a long term plan, but doesn't say what his is - so, half-points.

Hinman again standing up for the oilpatch - somehow, him putting the royalties back where they were is going to get us more money for infrastructure. Ed, you're just KILLING me - I'm begging you, roll out a new announcement. Surprise me... tell me the entire platform isn't just a repeat of the pre-election announcements? Still no suggestion from Taft, other than "get rid of the PC's". Mason brings up P3's, but links it to "friends and donors" rather than to debt. Good line from Ed "Brian, you're good at predicting the past". Hinman seems not to have noticed the recent oilpatch announcements, he seems to think the patch is shutting down completely.

Nation, I'm outta here. Tune into Ken Chapman and daveberta for continuing coverage!

Debate: After the Second Commercial Break

My politics-hating fiancee says: "Taft is just nitpicking. He's not making any constructive suggestions". She's pretty smart - wonder why she's marrying me.

I wonder what's going on in the Obama-Clinton debate right now...

OR in Calgary Fish Creek...

Higgins throws a bit of a softball. Hinman comes off as a potential Premier, at least in his delivery. He's definitely pushing hard for those upset Tories. He's going to boost his numbers with tonight's performance. Taft's verbose style is costing him again and again. Ease up on the syllables, Professor Taft. Ed seems... well, steady. Not sexy and exciting, but steady. He's no Ralph - but who is? Mason throws in some humour - well done. It's a good contrast to Taft's negativity.

Taft... well, he seems liek he's trying to pick up a girl at last call. Mason's bringing royalties into it - no big problem, there, as his base isn't exactly the Oil-patch executive crowd. Ed: It was a decisive decision? Yikes... my high school English teacher is sharpening her ruler as we speak. Hinman hitting on top-down leadership, that'll ring true with his supporters.

Taft says we need to slow down development - he may have a point. His "building a garage" analogy is sound. Mason again seems logical. Hinmans' talking about the kind of stuff that Leah Lawrence was describing in Calgary Mountainview on Tuesday night. Ed's playing the Chretien card... this might get interesting. Mason continues to hammer home the conflict of interest suggestion. Ed HAS to make his points faster, he's getting cut off before he gets to the point. Is Hinman calling Stelmach stupid? He's coming across as the champion for the oilpatch... cheque's in the mail, Paul. Ed hits back with 2 $20 Billion projects announced recently, and slips in the "people moving into Alberta" remark under the deadline. My fiancee says Ed doesn't make a very good argument, "to us non-political types".

Debate: After the First Commercial Break

Can't wait to see what daveberta and Ken Chapman have to say about the early-going... George Read is going to have a field-day with these questions on YouTube.

Trynacity's question is a timely one, based on recent headlines in Calgary. Once again, Taft is spending more time attacking the PC's than laying out his platform. He's seeming much more like a Leader of the Opposition than a Premier. Hinman's losing me on his "carrot-on-a-stick" approach to healthcare. Ed came off as well-preapred, at least in his initial remark on healthcare. Mason's all over healthcare, in a good way - it's the NDP bread-and-butter. They invented it, after all. :)

Taft sounds like he's singing out of Rick Bell's songbook. Again, more attacks than solutions. Mason is proposing solutions - that's an important difference between he and Taft. Hinman: "I agree with Mr. Mason" - that was at 6:49, Mountain Time. Mark it down - you may never hear it again. EVER. Hinman pandering to the south, where his strength lies - smart. Ed's spending a lot of time talking about what he's done, but none about what he WILL do. Taft is coming off as ascerbic.

Naidoo hits Mason where he lives... Mason makes a good point on generics. He's coming across as someone who is proposing concepts that the government can feel free to steal, for the good of all, instead of just saying "kick the bums out!". Ed's not explaining where we can make the system more efficient, which was the question. He makes good points, but they're off-topic. Hinman talks a lot about rewarding doctors - doesn't that sound a lot like "get 'em in, give 'em something for the pain, get 'em out? I'd rather a doc spend 9 hours fixing me than give me 2 tylenol because he's getting paid by the patient... Taft runs out of time for his ideas because he's so busy attacking. Kevin, wake up... you're sounding like an opposition politician, through-and-through.

Mason making a good case for Official Opposition status based on NDP ideas and results. Ed makes a decent point about attracting and retaining doctors and nurses. Hinman brought up competition in the heath system - oh, god, here we go...

Early Debate Thoughts

Mason's playing to his strengths... he says he wants to make life more affordable - on a personal level, perhaps, but not a public one. 2 mentions of "normal families" in 45 seconds. Nice.

Stelmach has been working on his delivery. The shifting from foot to foot is distracting. Pretty standard fare we've been hearing for 2 weeks.

Hinman goes on the attack early. Good message for disenchanted Tories, but needs to make more eye contact.

Taft is laying out his complaints against the Tories well, but he's not telling me why the Liberals should be the party to lead us to our future...

Thomson's question seems loaded, and Ed is floundering on the reply... good content, but he seems flustered. Mason's rebuttal continues his theme of putting the PC's and Grits in the same boat. Hinman scored a few good point. Ed's talking to the cameras, not to his opponents. Mason is trying to get more than his fair share of camera time. The moderators are letting this get out of hand - I can't tell what anyone's saying. Hinman is coming across as a pitbull. Ed needs to make his points more succinctly - he's trying to replace the "30 second sound-byte" with the "5 minute sound-byte"... don't know if that'll catch on.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Race For Calgary Hays

Formed in 2004, Calgary Hays is one of the newest ridings in the province, and features some of Calgary's newer communities. Indeed, I cannot readily identify ANY areas in this riding that were occupied by anything more than farmhouses when the Enlightened Savage moved to Calgary at age 8, in 1986. Douglasdale, MacKenzie, and Cranston are all well-heeled, suburban areas which sent PC Art Johnston to the Legislature with 63% of the popular vote in 2004.

The Candidates:
Art Johnston (PC)
Bill Kurtze (Lib)
Tyler Kinch (NDP)
Devin Cassidy (WAP)
Keely Bruce (Grn)

Art Johnston is a former cop and decorated sergeant with the Canadian Armed Forces, seeing action in Cyprus. He won the riding handily in 2004, backed by the PGIB. The happy owner of one of the campaign's best websites, Johnston is the beneficiary of a glut of spending announcements and infrastructure projects, owing to the rapid growth of the city in his riding. Schools, roads, recreation facilities, and the new South Calgary Hospital are all items paid for in full or in part by the provincial government, and these projects in their riding have led to a pretty happy electorate. The high number of Big Oil execs and white-collar employees in the riding could result in a small backlash against the PC's as result of the Royalty Regime shift, but overall Johnston is sitting pretty.

Bill Kurtze has one of the best internet domain names in the election, but his website is a pain in the butt to navigate. Kurtze has a wealth of experience in management in the energy sector - positioning him well to reap the benefits of disgruntlement with the Tories in the energy sector - until they remember that Kevin Taft wants to hit them even harder than Ed did. Well, maybe he'll do well with natural gas execs. Kurtze is a strong candidate for the Liberals, although I'm not sold on their ability to win a riding full to the brim with wealthy muckity-mucks. That said, Kurtze's management experience is evident in his campaign, and a well-run machine can sometimes outperform expectations. Call a Kurtze win unlikely... but certainly possible.

Tyler Kinch gets the E.S. Karma as a blogger-turned-candidate. The NDP polled less than 3.5% in this riding in 2004 - blue collar, it's not. In fact, when Brian Mason talks about "ordinary, working families", this riding is probably 83rd on his list. The pianist has been an outspoken advocate for rent controls and affordable housing in the province - which, as a renter, I can certainly make time for. Kinch will be hoping to bring attention to his issues in the election, but has no chance to win this riding. A moral victory - 2nd place - is the best he can hope for, but he'll need to make himself a more acceptable choice for the few left-leaning citizens of Hays than one of their own - a former energy executive.

Devin Cassidy is a curious choice for the Wildrose Alliance Party here in Calgary Hays. Given their position on royalties, the Alliance would have stood to gain some serious traction had they run someone with the credentials of, say, Bill Kurtze. Cassidy is a History major at St. Mary's University College, and an active member of the Knights of Columbus (his extensive study of Latin no doubt comes in handy in both cases). Devin's tastes run very similar to my own, with a professed love of Mozart, Christopher Walken, and Bond, James Bond. The Alliance polled 6% here in the last election. This time, Devin is hoping to beat 007%. (Okay, that was really bad...)

Keely Bruce has no information available at this time.

Alberta PC's to Barry Erskine: Thanks For Nothing...

Nation, there are 2 types of people who run for party nominations... people who believe in the party that they wish to represent; and people who want someone else to cover the tab for the 28-day job application known as a "campaign".

Barry Erskine, welcome to group 2.

Erskine, you'll recall, is a former City of Calgary Alderman. I say former, because he dropped out of the most recent municipal election race quite suddenly and unexpectedly, in order to run for the local Progressive Conservative nomination. With untold thousands of dollars that he had fundraised for a municipal election run, off the books and his to do with as he pleased.

Winning a party nomination, especially a PC one in Calgary, is seen by many as the "easy street" to getting elected MLA. Win the nomination, and you've got access to Big Blue's organization for fundraising, running the campaign, volunteers, everything. As one other spurned wannabe PC candidate put it: "We all know that whoever wins the (Progressive Conservative) nomination will surely be your next MLA..."


Barry missed the deadline for filing, and was ineligible to run for the PC party nomination in Elbow.

Now, if he were a member of "Group 1", Barry would have thrown his considerable clout and standing in the community behind the eventual PC candidate, Alison Redford. "I believe in this party, and I want the Progressive Conservatives and Alison Redford to represent the people of Calgary Elbow!" would have gone Barry's 10-second soundbyte. He would have encouraged his own volunteers to help out with the PC's, would have offered his help in any way that he could to Redford, to win the seat for her and for the party that he believed in.

Instead, he's running as an independent. AGAINST the PC candidate that he hoped would have been him.

Clearly, Barry's primary interest was never in being the PC MLA for Calgary Elbow - he just wanted, and wants, to be the MLA, and saw the PC's as the easiest vehicle to get there. Erskine's policies are very much in keeping with the PC platform, and all his independent run is going to do is split the small-c conservative support that Redford was counting on to make Elbow a close race. Instead, by splitting the vote, Erskine is going to be making it nearly impossible for either himself or Redford to take the riding, and is essentially handing the riding to Craig "I don't wanna debate" Cheffins on a silver platter.

Can Erskine win? Only if he completely marginalizes Redford. Erskine can fundraise in Big Oil circles without having the PC stigma attached to him, and he certainly has name recognition. But there are enough "true blue believers" in the riding who are going to vote PC no matter what, that Erskine is working from a distinct disadvantage - one that he wouldn't have had if he had been running as the PC candidate. Those people are just flat-out not going to vote anything but PC - making Erskine's run as an independent a very expensive, very poor gamble, and cutting off the party he claimed to support and believe in at the knees.

I can't say for certain, but if Craig Cheffins has a christmas card list, Barry Erskine just earned his way onto it.

And THAT is a choice that Mr. Erskine is going to have to be able to defend if he decides to run for the PC nomination in Elbow again in the future.

More Shenanigans

Anyone remember when campaigns were about policies?

Me, neither.

The word on the street in Calgary Fish Creek is that there will be a meeting at Haultain School tomorrow (Thursday) night at 6:30 (yes, I know it's the same time as the leader's debate), at which PC candidate Heather Forsyth was invited to speak.

Since that invitation was issued, the Liberal candidate has since been added to the proceedings, and rumours persist that the Liberal campaign has been making calls all day, in an effort to stack the meeting gallery with friendly Liberal supporters, ready to pounce on Forsyth the moment she opens her mouth.

Nice to know that even an invitation to address a school council these days can turn into a surprise, desperate partisan attack. And we WONDER why more good people don't get involved in politics?

The meeting is being held at:
Haultain School
605 Queensland Drive S.E.
6:30 pm, Thursday Feb. 21

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Race For Calgary Glenmore

Calgary Glenmore has had a Progressive Conservative MLA for most of the past 49 years. Indeed, even the 6 years it was represented by Liberal Bill Dickie (1963-69) are put into question, since Dickie crossed the floor to the PC's in 1969. Glenmore was PC before PC was cool - it started electing PC's in 1959 (Ernest Watkins was the ONLY PC in Alberta elected in the general election of 1959), and has remained steadfastly PC since the Tories took power in 1971.

That said, this riding is VERY much in play this year, with the Liberals in a good position to colour the riding red for the first time since the Social Credit Party was in power.

The Candidates:
Ron Stevens (PC)
Avalon Roberts (Lib)
Holly Heffernan (NDP)
Ryan Sadler (WAP)
Arden Bonokoski (Grn)
David Crutcher (Ind.)

Ron Stevens is seeking a fourth term as MLA for Calgary Glenmore. In addition to his portfolio as Minister of Justice & Attorney General, Stevens was also named Deputy Premier in late June 2007. Devout followers of the political scene in Alberta will remember that Stevens was involved in the "Hawaiian Stop-over" controversy, although the Liberals tended to paint it as a systemic PC problem moreso than a Ron Stevens problem, and his Liberal opponent isn't gaining much traction from the incident. Another issue that may plague Stevens is the Southwest Ring Road - which has been on the books now for enough years that I hadn't developed my abiding disdain for soccer when it was first promised. As the area's MLA for the past 11 years, in a Calgary-friendly government and then as Deputy Premier and Calgary's chief representative in the current Stelmach cabinet, residents rightly want answers as to why the bloody thing is taking so long. Stevens won this riding by fewer than 2,000 votes in 2004 - and that was with King Ralph running in the riding to the North, Calgary Elbow. Without Ralph's coat-tails to ride on, knock 15-20% off of the Tory vote totals (the internal PC estimate for Calgary ridings), and all the Liberals need to do is SLIGHLTY increase their support from 2004 levels to take this riding. Ron's a nice enough guy in person, but he is in a dog-fight for this riding, and I would not be surprised at all to see it go Liberal on March 3rd.

Avalon Roberts ran in this riding in 2004, finishing second by 1,897 votes. In the same year, she also garnered nearly 10,000 votes running against Stephen Harper for the federal Liberals in Calgary South West. A trained psychiatrist, Dr. Roberts has long been a vocal supporter of the Friends of Medicare, and also lists the environment and protection of the Weaselhead natural area as top priorities. With her name recognition and credentials as a practitioner and supporter of Alberta's health system, Roberts is a very sharp thorn in the side of Calgary-area Tories. Provided her campaign doesn't come off the rails, she may be able to ride public discontent with the Tories and Glenmore's current MLA straight up the future high-speed rail line to Edmonton, and be a thorn with a seat in the Legislative Assembly. If I had to bet, I'd pick Avalon Roberts to take Glenmore (luckily, I don't have to bet).

Holly Heffernan received 550 votes in this riding for the NDP in 2004, and she's giving it the old college try once again. Furthering her parallels with Dr. Roberts of the Liberals, Holly works in the health system, and ran in Calgary South West in 2006's federal election against Stephen Harper, pulling in an impressive 8% for the NDP in the riding and finishing 3rd (Roberts was second). An active union member and church volunteer, Holly enjoys Harry Potter (which would get her excommunicated from the church *I* grew up in - which explains why I don't attend that church any more). She'll need to pull a little abracadabra herself to place any better than 3rd in this race.

Ryan Sadler did NOT run in 2004, OR in 2006, except maybe for a bus. Sadler is a young tech entrepreneur, who prides himself on his problem-solving abilities. A self-styled champion of the down-trodden, Sadler will be hoping to build on the Alberta Alliance's 3rd place finish in this riding in 2004. If he can tap into enough Tory discontent, he may drain enough PC votes from Ron Stevens to get Avalon Roberts elected... not the result Sadler is looking for, no doubt, but much more likely than a Wildrose Alliance win in a riding where the "centrist" parties took over 85% of votes cast in 2004.

Arden Bonokoski is a University of Calgary student on her way to a BSc. She is currently involved in the formation of a Youth Wing for the Alberta Association for Community Living. The Greens finished 5th here in 2004, but were a few dozen votes from finishing 3rd. The federal riding which encompasses much of the area, Calgary South West, put the Greens in a close race for 3rd in 2006. This riding may go Green in the future, with the Glenmore Reservoir and surrounding environs, plus the mountain parks less than a half hour away... but not this time. A 4th place finish here would be a job very well done - anything better would be truly exceptional.

David Crutcher was a third-place finisher in Calgary Egmont for the Alberta Alliance in the last provincial election, capturing 14% of the vote. He subsequently ran for the leadership of the Alliance and was eliminated after the second ballot. His leadership campaign was plagued by controversy, including threats of legal action and comments from his campaign manager that the Alberta Alliance was "too left-wing". Crutcher left the Alliance and joined the PC's in July 2007, and in short order was elected constituency association president in Egmont, backed by the PGIB. Crutcher was removed/stepped down from the Egmont PC board in October of 2007 due to accusations of impropriety in his support of a particular candidate (also affiliated with the PGIB - the aforementioned former campaign manager in his Alliance leadership bid) for the party's nomination in the riding. Running as an Independent in Glenmore, Crutcher will attract some upset Tories, but he'll have to split that prize with the WAP candidate.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Race For Calgary Fort

Located along the eastern edge of the city, Calgary Fort includes such communities as Dover and Erin Woods. It is, in the words of one observer, "a great example of the bad strategic minds at work in the opposition parties." The incumbent, Wayne Cao, is insanely popular in the riding. He can be found in attendance at every school opening, charity tournament, and tree-house dedication in the riding - singing Alberta's official song (badly, from what I hear - Wayne, I know a good singing teacher if you're interested) that he had commissioned for the province's centennial. The Liberals and NDP are running 2 extremely well-qualified contenders here, who would have had an excellent chance in Calgary East. In Calgary Fort, they're fighting for 2nd and 3rd place.

The Candidates:
Wayne Cao (PC)
Carole Oliver (Lib)
Julie Hrdlicka (NDP)
Travis Chase (WAP)
J. Mark Taylor (Grn)

Wayne Cao, or "Cao-boy" (pronounced "Cowboy"), is a hugely popular incumbent. A highly qualified IT professional, Wayne is a big proponent of promoting what he calls "multi-culturalism, not multi-nationalism". As such, Cao believes that the most important part of the "German-Canadian", "Vietnamese-Canadian", or "French-Canadian" designations is the part that reads "Canadian". Whenever there's a soccer field, playground, or bike rack opening in Calgary Fort, you'll find Wayne Cao there... and his constituents LOVE him for it. This man will have his job as long as he wants it - and he still wants it.

Carole Oliver is a former one-term public schools trustee for Wards 6 & 7. She is a long-time volunteer with the Salvation Army, as Director of Residential Services. Well thought-of in the community for her tireless volunteerism, Oliver would have had a much easier go of it if she were to run anywhere but Fort. As it is, she will be trounced handily by the Cao-boy.

Julie Hrdlicka is probably one of the most active involved candidates in the province. A co-ordinator for the Parkland Institute, she was nominated to run for the NDP here in November of 2006. The holder of a BA in International Relations from the University of Calgary, Julie regularly appears in the media, including CBC and the Globe and Mail (which recently included yours truly in its list of Alberta Election Blogs worthy of note). Extremely passionate and articulate, Hrdlicka is sure to break through the glass ceiling that has held the NDP at under 900 votes since the riding's inception.

Travis Chase ran for the Alberta Alliance in 2004 in this riding, capturing nearly 600 votes. In 2005, he was threatened with legal action by He Whose Name We Dare Not Speak, for speaking against him during the Alliance Leadership Race. As such, it would certainly be interesting if Travis were to be elected to sit as a Wildrose Alliance MLA, and the independent candidate were elected in Egmont and then, as he promised, attempt to join the Wildrose Alliance Caucus. One wonders how well the 2 would get along... but one doesn't wonder it for long. It's wasted thought, anyway - Travis will do better than he did in 2004, but he's not knocking off Wayne Cao.

J. Mark Taylor is a Medical Herbalist and director of the Arcady Holistic Clinic, a toxin elimination clinic, in Inglewood. Taylor's professional approach to the holistic nature of health care rather than the "chasing the symptoms" system that generates so much waste currently, has much to offer us societally. The Minister of Health, whomever they happen to be after March 3rd, would be well-advised to sit down with Taylor and talk with him. Taylor has much to offer the wider, province-wide debate, but won't be able to break through in Fort.