Sunday, August 30, 2009

Everyone Look Busy... the Boss Is Coming!

Well, Nation... the Calgary-Glenmore by-election campaign is half over, and the signs wars are... well, underwhelming at best. Every side likes to claim they're "winning the sign war", and yet they're also quick to dismiss the significance of having a lot of signs up - or, more specifically, or seeing a lot of their OPPONENTS' signs up.

The thing I'm noticing most is the ridiculous number of signs I'm seeing on public property. Don't get me wrong - there are signs on private property. Absolutely. But I'm seeing giant printed signs for Hinman and Roberts on some of the main roads going through Calgary-Glenmore, as well as big rented signs for those 2 plus Colley-Urquhart. The legalities of what IS and ISN'T allowed in terms of signage in this city is a little foggy to me (especially after hearing about THIS embarrassment), however I know that incumbents generally tend to get in less trouble than challengers on this front. Even though Glenmore HAS no incumbent, I'd think that a sitting Alderman would be very aware of what is and isn't allowed in terms of signage, so I'm assuming any place I see a PC sign in Glenmore is probably okay for the others as well.

All that said, though... all that signs on public property (legally or not) says is "my campaign has money". It DOESN'T mean "my campaign has support from local voters" - which most educated voters realize. A giant row of Avalon Roberts signs on a median doesn't mean much. An entire boulevard of houses with Hinman signs on every single lawn? THAT would "send Ed a message".

SPEAKING of the Premier... he'll be attending a rally at Colley-Urquhart HQ this coming Thursday. No word on whether any of daveberta's posters are up at Diane's office, but I suspect that the Premier's focus is going to be on Diane's record as an Alderman, the legacy that Ron Stevens leaves, the "free-flow 14th" band-aid for the ring road, and on getting out the vote to avoid another Calgary-Elbow fiasco.

At least, that would be his focus if *I* were advising him.

The Enlightened Savage will likely be in the house on Thursday - come say hi to me.

Well, and the Premier. He's a pretty big deal also. ;)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Canadian Youth Are Awesome

Hope everyone's having a good day today. Anything interesting happen lately? ;)

Setting a slightly lighter tone today, before I sit down to solve the $6.9 Billion deficit in a single blog post...

Credit to @TPHogan for this gem...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Revelations, Chapter 2 (spoiler alert!)

I've wanted to be a Member of the Legislative Assembly since I was 17 years old. The problem was always that, even as a 17 year-old, I self-identified as a small-c conservative (or, what I understood that to mean). I believed then, as I do now, that we deserved the best government we could afford, and not a penny or a secretary more than that. I believed in mandatory minimum sentencing for violent offenders, and freedom of speech, and the ability of the free market to ensure competition and quality in most cases. I believed that an MLA’s job was to represent their constituents, and when they weren’t sure how the constituents felt, to ASK them rather than assume the once-every-4-years endorsement by the voters was carte blanche to just go with the member’s own opinions, beliefs and values. I believed in those things then, and I believe in them today.

I was a lonely 17 year-old, and my Progressive Conservative MLA welcomed me with open arms.

Fast forward 10 years (to 2005), and I still held those same beliefs - but, in many ways, I was still viewed as "too young to have anything intelligent or useful to add to the conversation". While the fringe parties in this province routinely threw 20-somethings to the wolves as candidates simply because they couldn't find anyone else, I would show up at campaign offices, federal and provincial, and be told by volunteers with important titles that my skill-set was best suited for dropping off fliers and pounding signs into lawns. Important tasks, to be sure. The kind of things that have to happen to win an election, absolutely. But this wasn’t what I wanted to learn how to do – I wanted to learn how to go from door to door with a candidate, and talk to people, engage with them, and change their minds – or my own – on a given issue. I wanted to apprentice, with the idea of someday using what I had learned, combined with my own knack for analysis, political thought and speech, to run for my “dream job”.

In late 2006, I noticed a conspicuous lack of coverage in the media on the PC leadership race. Members of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta were going to be choosing a new leader and, by default, a new Premier for the province – and no one seemed to be talking about it. I couldn’t find any coverage on the television, or in the newspapers, and the internet had a smattering of information, but not a whole lot. So I researched. I surfed all over the internet, trying to dig up information about these people who wanted to be the leader of the province that was the beating heart of Canada’s economic engine. And when I was done... it occurred to me that, while I was satisfied that I had found the information I needed to help me make an informed choice, a lot of the voting members of the party wouldn’t know HOW to find the information I had found.

“This should all be collected in one place”, I thought to myself. And the idea of this blog was born.

I originally intended just to cover the selection of the new Premier, and then to slink away. If I could at least show up on a Google search, and help a single member of the PC’s make their decision, I’d call it a win.

I took the name “The Enlightened Savage”, because as a provincial employee, I wanted the freedom to write what I actually thought about the leadership contenders without worrying that someone I spoke against would win, find my name on a list of provincial staff, and promptly fire me. The inspiration for my use of a “pen name” was actually Samuel Clemens, who on February 3rd, 1863, at the age of 27 years, signed his name for the first time as “Mark Twain”.

I thought the name really encapsulated what I was trying to prove to the outside world, and to the smaller world within my own political circles... that a self-identified conservative wasn’t automatically a mindless, brown-shirted barbarian incapable of rational thought and discussion... and that a young person without “all the right connections” or a PoliSci degree could analyse policy and strategy and political trends, and stimulate meaningful discussion rather than the mindless, partisan back-and-forth you hear from so many of the party faithful.

I had been writing for a week, and Googling to see how many more “buzzwords” I’d need to drop in before the Google Spiders listed me high enough to be found by my targeted “single party member”, when something extraordinary happened... I found a posting on another blog – talking about MY blog. The blog in question was named “Phendrana Drifts”, and the author (Duncan Wojtaszek) was talking about my posting in a complimentary way.

“Another thought on blogs, I have a new flavour of the month in blogs, the Enlightened Savage. He is spot on in many comments, and I can only hope he will continue blogging about Alberta politics past Nov. 25/Dec. 2. He is setting a furious pace, with a superb analysis of Dinning today, and a good one on Hancock yesterday.”

I’d look a little further, and see that the day before, 6 days into my “blogging career”, there was ANOTHER post on a PC insider’s blog, about this “new kid on the block”. This one was from Ken Chapman, one of the “heavy hitters” among the provincial political blogs.

“I have just read a Blog, The Enlightened Savage that I think has some of the best comments, insights and profiles of the leadership candidates. It is definitely worth a read.”

I didn’t even know what to do... I was simply floored. Here were people who had never met me, who I’d never spoken to, who seemed well-connected within the huge apparatus of the PC Party and they were complimenting my content. My insights. My ANALYSIS. My ability not to regurgitate press releases, but to read the data and come to conclusions – the very same skills that, under my own name, had been so casually disregarded because of my age and a lack of conventional political bona fides. They weren’t impressed by WHO I knew, but by WHAT I knew. I’m proud now to call Duncan and his wonderful wife Allie friends of mine. His kindness in pointing me out to the masses is something for which I will always be grateful. Ken Chapman is forever going to be my “blogfather”. He went out of his way to meet me when he was next in Calgary, and although we haven’t had a chance to sit down and really talk one-on-one since then, we’ve stayed in contact through other means - he is the model for me of what a true PROGRESSIVE conservative should be.

The blog changed everything. I was writing, and people of influence were agreeing. They were engaged. They wanted to talk about ideas, and strategies, and they thought I had something to say that they should be listening to. They wanted to talk to ME, and to hear MY ideas and opinions, about matters of importance. Some of the more intrepid among the MSM actually found me... I even got invited to do some in-studio analysis on CBC Radio on municipal election night 2007, and some more for the 2008 federal campaign. Naheed Nenshi helped me get booked to do a spot of analysis on CityTV for election night during the 2008 provincial election (I need some work on my “on-camera” spots – hairy, at best).

No one other than my close friends and family even had the time of day for me and my political ideas under my real name, but when I wrote under a pseudonym, in the public domain, people were noticing. People who KNEW I was The Enlightened Savage were introducing me, by my given name, to MLA’s – and those same MLA’s would ask, when the discussion turned to political blogs, “who do you think this Enlightened Savage is?” 18 months later, I "outed" myself to the same MLA who had taken me under her wing at age 17. To say she was floored would be a bit of an understatement. She asked me, “where are you GETTING this stuff?”, and I told her “It’s just how I see things.” She remains a wonderful mentor, politically, and an example of everything that is right about politicians. Without the blog, I’d still be delivering her fliers and delivering her lawn signs, proudly. Now, I discuss policy and strategy with her – just as proudly, but far less sweatily.

This blog has helped me make the connections and hone the skills I needed to achieve my goal. I intend to run to be a Member of the Legislative Assembly for the Province of Alberta. I have 3 years of writings (440 posts, as of this writing) that I stand by, as if they were a voting record. I believe that, when I ask the voters for their trust, they have a right to know what I've said, and hold me accountable for it.

The odd thing is, I never REALLY considered this to be an “anonymous blog”. I was writing under a name other than the one I had been given at birth, but so do many others – the fact that I didn’t choose something innocuous like “John Smith” is what gave it away, but many reporters and television news personalities don’t have their birth name as part of the by-line – it’s the content that makes them reputable. I wanted to think I was providing good content, keeping the rumours and “anonymous sources have indicated...” down to a minimum. I was accountable for what I wrote as The Enlightened Savage, and for what appeared here - hence, my moderation of the comments to the posts – because people knew where to find me and hold me to account. Right here, at this blog. Just like "Dear Abby" gets her mail, even though her given name isn't "Abby".

My concern with revealing my identity, though, has never been the public-at-large. It has been some as-yet-unknown overzealous middle-manager somewhere in my department who is going to try and curry favour with their favourite MLA by closing my one-man office and putting me out of a job, "solving" a problem for that MLA because I criticised them at some point. I'm not scared of the PC party - I'm scared of a faceless “true believer” supporter trying to protect his own version of party doctrine at the expense of my job – an important job that I do very well.

There’s been a lot of conversation in the past few days about the future of this blog. Whether I’d reveal myself, disappear, or remove the blog altogether. I want to thank Jane Morgan and Brian Dell for their discretion to this point. They didn’t HAVE to give me the time I needed to figure out what to do – but they did it anyhow. We don’t agree on everything politically, but this small act of compassion speaks to the quality of character that both of them have.

The first post to this blog was on Wednesday, November 15th, 2006. In that post, I mentioned that “I hope to provide as balanced an approach as I can to the issues of the day, while at the same time making it clear where I stand”. I’d like to think in the past 3 years, I’ve managed to do that.

I also committed to the idea of “holding my own to a higher standard”, and standing up for people and groups who are often marginalized in the political discussion, particularly if that discussion is happening to the right of centre. I have done my best to deliver on that commitment as well.

I’ve tried to use this blog to talk not just about how politics IS, but about how politics SHOULD be – how it MUST be if it hopes to keep up with and stay relevant to the changing face of our civilization. If the voters won’t engage with those who seek their consent to rule, then WE, as politicians and those who wish to serve and lead, have to do a better job of giving them something with which they will WANT to engage.

I can proudly say I’ve rejected only a handful of comments on any of my 440 posts. Having YOU be part of the discussion is what has kept me doing this – let’s be honest, I’m not interesting enough to talk, uninterrupted, for 3 years straight. My favourite posts have been the ones with the most comments, because it means we’re actually talking WITH each other, instead of me just talking AT you. I haven’t gotten many posts that reached what I call the “daveberta line” (most of Dave’s posts seem to get at least 20 comments), but the conversation has been important to me nevertheless.

I’ve made an effort whenever possible to “give the rub” to other bloggers, whether they were already established (see my unsuccessful attempt to help DJ Kelly win a Canadian Blog Award) or just starting out (Shane over at CalgaryRants is not, in fact, me – I have been known to wear the mask around the house, though).

I’ve tried my best to make you think, make you discuss issues with your fellow citizens, make you laugh, and (sometimes) make you mad.

The only thing I haven’t given you over these past 3 years is a name.

And now you have one.

My name is Joey Oberhoffner. You can call me The Enlightened Savage.

And if you think this blog was interesting before... brothers and sisters, you ain’t seen NOTHING yet.

This blog – and this blogger – aren’t going ANYWHERE.

Viva la NaciĆ³n.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Nation... there's a lot going on behind-the-scenes in "E.S.-land" right now, and a lot of people are finding themselves in unenviable positions.

Please vote on the poll to your right.

You'll be hearing from me on Wednesday.

- E.S.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What's In A Label?

Nation, we've seen a great deal of discussion on the interwebs and in the fish-wrap lately about the usefulness of political labels. In light of the recent ramping up of partisan rhetoric ahead of the Calgary-Glenmore by-election, one of those labels in particular has got me wondering...

What, exactly, IS a "conservative"?

We're seeing a lot of supporters of Paul Hinman dismissing Diane Colley-Urquhart as a "phony conservative". Meanwhile, PC supporters seem determined to paint Hinman as a "scary social conservative". Wildrose Alliance officials, for their part, are quick to point out that their party is a "fiscally conservative, socially moderate party" - which might be news to those vocal few among their supporters who are so quick to cry "moderate is another word for liberal!!!".

Moderate. Liberal. Conservative. Progressive. Red Tory. Blue Tory. These labels are supposed to make it EASIER for the voters to figure out what these candidates and parties stand for?

The catalyst for this post, though, was a post I read (and commented on) over at The Alberta Altruist, entitled "Calgary Glenmore How Conservative Is It?". It's a good question, and one with a lot of levels... in order to be a "conservative riding", do the voters in Glenmore need to be fiscal and social conservatives both? Or can you be a fiscal hawk and social moderate and still be called conservative? How about a social conservative who's cut from the tax-and-spend cloth? The conservative "coin" as we understand it has 2 sides - do they both need to come up "blue" to call someone a "real conservative"? Does it, in fact, only have 2 sides? Why aren't there "environmental conservatives", since environment is neither purely social NOR purely economic?

And even if you have all the answers to the paragraph above, what does it MEAN to be a "conservative", anyhow?

The root word, of course, is "conserve".

Conserve, from the Latin "conservare" (to strongly keep watch, to strongly maintain) - modern usage "to save for later use"; "to protect an environment".

So, right off the bat, we see that a "conservative" is someone who wants to protect and maintain things... in order to maintain something, it must be previously established, so we're probably looking at "traditional values, historic social institutions, and the environment". Plus fiscal policy, which we'll tackle at the end.

Not all traditional values, mind you, are necessarily worth protecting - and a lot of them will see modern "conservative" politicians running as fast as possible in the other direction - such as the subjugation of women, slavery, and paedophilia. All of these were accepted - and, depending on which part of the world you're looking at - even encouraged at some point. However in this more enlightened age, nobody (and I mean NOBODY) with any credibility at ALL would even THINK of accepting or encouraging that sort of garbage. So... just because it's how they thought a hundred or a thousand years ago doesn't NECESSARILY make it a "traditional conservative value". There are no legitimate conservative federal or provincial political parties that I know of who are in favour of any of those 3 examples - and yes, that includes subjugation of women. Stephen Harper does NOT have a secret plan to take away your right to choose and chain you to a stove-top. Stop it.

The "traditional values" that make up the foundation of "social conservatism", then, seem to be the values that western liberal (eek! There's that WORD!) democracies share: Respect for the rule of law, the sanctity of the family unit, the defence of individual liberties, and the absolute rule of democracy. The devil, of course, is in the details. Respect for the rule of law and individual liberties were tossed aside in defence of the state in the latter years of the conservative G.W. Bush presidency. The sanctity of the family unit is all fine and good, but what if MY family unit has 2 husbands and no wife? Most would agree this is hardly the family unit that most self-described social conservatives have in mind.

The democracy thing is a bit of a sticking point, too... many conservatives in this country want to overhaul the Senate of Canada, to make it more equitable to their own regions... and yet, the parties of the left want things to stay as they are. In effect, the conservatives are pushing for change, while the liberals defend the status quo, and our current democratic parliamentary system. So is democracy a purely conservative value? Does being in favour of free votes or fixed election dates make one a conservative by default? I submit it doesn't... which is a point that Preston Manning tried to make repeatedly while he and his party, founded on the simple principle that our system needed to change to ensure democratic fairness, were demonized as "conservative neanderthals".

It's important to note here, too, that being unable or unwilling to call one's self a "social conservative" does NOT, in fact, mean that you are fundamentally OPPOSED to social order, families, individual rights and the democratic process. It's not an "all or nothing" deal, despite what some of the "true believers" would have you think.

Historic social institutions are an interesting kettle of fish, particularly in Canada. Most "conservatives" in western democracies are republican - meaning, they prefer that the final executive power in their system of government lay in the hands of a person or persons whom have been elected by the people over whom they are ruling. In Canada, though, a sizable number - I'd submit, the majority - of conservatives prefer that we maintain our connections to the British Crown. This is another of the "moving targets" in conservative thought... in the early 1800's, to be a "conservative" meant that in all likelihood you wished for the maintenance or re-establishment of the rule of a monarch in your nation - that monarchy being an historic social institution. In the time since, democratic ideals have replaced monarchism as the social institution in much of the western world - indeed, an American conservative would scoff at the idea that his monarchist friend from Ontario be considered "conservative".

So, conservatives from different parts of the world are not necessarily all the same in their defence of social institutions, because those institutions are different depending on where you go. A conservative in British Columbia would be appalled at the institutions a conservative in Saudi Arabia would defend. A conservative in Manitoba would be considered a far-left wing-nut in Minnesota. And Barack Obama's "neo-soviet liberal heath-care policies", in the hands of a Canadian politician, would be called "draconian neo-conservative anti-medicare hog-wash".

And medicare, by the way, is the perfect Canadian example of the moving target that is "historical social institutions"... Medicare has been in place now for 43 years. At some point in the not-so-distant future, defence of Medicare is going to suddenly find itself listed on some anonymous blogger's manifesto of "conservative virtues", because Medicare itself will be an historic social institution. Like the monarchy. Or hating the Toronto Maple Leafs. Or the metric system. Something we can all bond over, from coast to coast.

The other "social institutions" that conservatives will generally tend to defend include: The nuclear family, resource-based industries, small business and agriculture, national unity, free trade, provincial economic autonomy, and Judeo-Christian faith-based values.

Again, the refusal to support ALL of the above-listed initiatives and institutions does not automatically exclude someone from being a "true conservative"... a conservative who has considered the issue and has decided he can not support free trade is not a liberal - he's a conservative who is against free trade. There are Muslim, pagan, and even atheist conservatives. There are conservatives who are also environmentalists. Which brings me to my next conservative litmus test...

Conservative conservationists.

Nation, no matter how you slice it, no matter how you define a conservative by their social stances or their fiscal ones, there's one issue that all conservatives should, by their very nature, agree on: Preservation and responsible use of the environment. Conservatives should, in effect, be conservationists.

You're a fiscal conservative? Great. Explain to me why we don't cut all the trees down at once - we'd make more money that way in the imeediate short-term, right? Even if you're a hardcore fiscal conservative, you have to accept that the best conservationists we've got in this country - our ranchers, farmers and foresters - are also some of the most devout conservatives. You CAN be both... you can value the economy AND ensure a sustainable environment at the same time. You can exploit natural resources without destroying the environment - and, if you take good care of the land, water and air, you can exploit those resources AGAIN at next year's harvest. Money, as they say, cannot be eaten.

You're a social conservative? Fantastic. Explain to me how poisoning the environment for future generations is a good, traditional, conservative value. Conservatives, after all, want to ensure that their children are given the opportunity to grow, learn and thrive. They need a healthy place to live in order to do that. We can "exercise our dominion" over the land, and the beasts, without poisoning the land and wiping out all the beasts. Remember: We have not inherited the world from our forefathers - we have borrowed it from our children.

Conservatives in Europe have already embraced the Green cause, and made it their own. Keeping the land and water clean, reducing waste, saving money on clean-ups, ensuring a healthy environment for future generations - those are considered conservative ideals in Europe. Conservatives on this side of the pond shouldn't hesitate to follow the parade, just because they're afraid of angering their resource-company donors. Are the big oil and energy dollars going to go to the "tax big businesses into the ground" crowd on the other side of the political spectrum?

It doesn't matter whether you agree that climate change is a man-made, or man-exacerbated, phenomena. It doesn't even matter if you still steadfastly refuse to stop calling it "global warming", even though the rest of us stopped using the term 10 years ago, since some areas are seeing a dramatic drop in temperature rather than a rise (a drop is just as bad). Argue the science all you want. Taking care of the ONLY planet we have access to, just makes good, conservative sense. You don't kill the Golden Goose. You don't eat a fish that you found dead in the lake. You don't drink downstream of the herd - or of the tailing pond. You don't crap where you eat.

What's more common-sense, more conservative, than that?

The last conservative pillar, or sub-classification if you like, is the "fiscal conservative". Now, in these tough economic times (tm), EVERYONE likes to fashion themselves as a "fiscal conservative". What does this fiscal conservatism actually entail? Well, in a general sense, it means you "try your best not to waste the taxpayers' money". This can be achieved through minimizing the government's involvement in the ownership of corporations or privitizing existing government assets, promoting efficiency and minimizing waste, going into defecit only as a last resort (and paying back the money PRONTO), and lessening the corporate and personal tax burden as far as possible.

As I said, this "fiscal conservatism" is the one pillar that everyone from every remotely conservative corner of the politisphere is clinging deperately to these days, trying to convince the voter that they are the best choice to not take more than they need from each paycheque, or spend more than is necessary, in the current economic climate. Indeed, to an outsider it seems that even the Alberta Liberals are fashioning themselves as a "fiscally conservative" party, forcing Albertans to choose between 3 parties all claiming to be fiscally conservative.

Of course, in this scenario, the only party that can be attacked on its record is the one that has held power - and, since the world's economy has gone into what Montogmery Scott would call the "waste extraction unit", the same policies that 4 years ago would have been "fiscally conservative" are now decried as "reckless tax-and-spend liberalism". The alternative, taken in the name of seeming to be a committed fiscal conservative, would be to dramatically cut the public workforce, making an already bad economic situation worse (adding 10,000-or-more people to the ranks of the unemployed for the sake of not having people call you names is hardly a responsible solution to an economic crisis).

So, where does this leave us?

The problem with these labels is that we can bestow them on ourselves, other can bestow them on us as compliments or condemnations, and they can exclude us from the labels for the same reasons... "he's no neo-con" can be a compliment, while "she's not a real conservative" can be meant as a reason NOT to vote for someone. "I'm a fiscal conservative" is impossible to prove without a voting record, and "I'm a social conservative" could mean anything from "I think the government has no place in the bedrooms of the country" to "I think we should bus all the homosexuals to Massachuesetts".

So, since anyone can call anyone else anything they like (it's called "free speech" - I exercise it a lot - A LOT, according the future Mrs. Savage, and contrary to the loud imaginings of a very vocal minority, no HRC has ever come to my door with a roll of duct tape), and it's almost impossible to prove who is right and who is wrong about the labels, of what value ARE they, truly?

What does it MEAN when you say someone "isn't a true conservative"? They don't like free trade? They buy their gas at Petro-Canada? They read daveberta?

As I understand it, the accusation that a person isn't a "true conservative" comes from the old definition of a "conservative" as marching in lock-step with the 2 pillars of conservatism: Fiscal conservatism, and social conservatism. Someone who wanders, in fact or in the other person's imaginings, from either can't be a "true blue conservative".

Being a "conservative" isn't like being a Roman Catholic, though. If you stray from the dogma or the teachings of the movement, a bishop can't simply appear and excommunicate you. Supporters of another party can't kick your party out of the conservative club, and supporters of another candidate can't declare that you aren't a conservative simply because they disagree with you. Well, they CAN, and they DO, but it's about as legitimate as "my dad can beat up your dad".

I'd propose, though, that just as the simple "left-right" axis of my grade-school social studies class is no longer relevant to the realities of a 3-dimensional political world, so too must the over-simplification of the "conservative" label as "social and fiscal" go the way of the dodo.

To this one mind, the mind of the Enlightened Savage, a Canadian conservative is someone who finds themselves agreeing with most, but not neccessarily ALL, of the following:

  • Traditional values that make us a vibrant civilization should be respected and protected, including respect for the rule of law, respect for the sanctity of the family unit (however you define it), individual rights and freedoms so long as they don't infringe on the right of others to live in dignity, and the selection of our leaders through a transparent and fair democratic process.

  • Historic social institutions that add to our quality of life or our sense of identity and self, such as social welfare, public education, a healthy and sustainable agricultural sector, universally accessible healthcare and equality of opportunity (but not necessarily outcome) should be maintained and strengthened, while encouraging the citizens of Canada to participate in the economy as consumers, employees, and employers.

  • Responsible and sustainable economic development should be encouraged within the context of a clean and healthy environment. Recycling, limiting waste, promoting efficiency in consumption of fossil fuels and other resources, long-term planning, researching new energy and environmental technologies and protection of the water table should be priorities that effect not just our standard of living, but also our economy and our quality of life.

  • Government fiscal policies should provide for a strong public service infrastructure through which the above can be implemented. Taxes collected from the citizenry are not government funds, but rather the trust of the people, and must be treated as such. Waste must be limited, and efficiency promoted. No more tax than is necessary should be collected, and excess taxes should be returned to the taxpayers. Short-term deficits should only be entered into as a last resort, and debts should be cleared as soon as possible (not as soon as convenient - as soon as possible).

If THOSE 4 points above were how we ALL agreed "conservative" was going to be defined... then I think we'd all have a much better idea about someone's policies when they called themselves a "conservative".

So... that's what *I* consider the "anatomy of a conservative".

How about YOU?

(hint: post a comment)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What Paul Hinman knows but isn't telling us...

... he's got no chance in Calgary-Glenmore.

Nation, the race for Calgary-Glenmore is now, as of the writing of this blog, officially 25 and one-half hours old. And ALREADY, Paul Hinman - interim leader of the Wildrose Alliance Party and their candidate in the by-election precipitated by Ron Stevens' retirement from political life - is crying about the unfairness of the Premier setting the by-election's date as September 14th.

"No fair!", goes the caterwauling. "People are really busy right now, then it's the long week-end, and the kids are back in school, and it's election day! We can't get volunteers or donors at this time of year..."

Whoah there, Paul. Back up a sec. You can't mobilize enough volunteers and donors to fight a single by-election at the end of summer?

The Wildrose Alliance Party is the party that wants to ride to the rescue of the oilpatch. That wants to make life easier for small business. That wants to lower taxes, and help Alberta companies create jobs.

It's the party that wants to bring conservative government back to what they insist is a conservative populace... letting Martha and Henry and their pastor speak their minds without fear of the HRC's "thought police"... locking up bad guys and keeping bad guys from coming to Alberta from elsewhere.

You're telling me, in a province full of energy companies and allegedly conservative voters, that Paul Hinman's campaign team can't find enough money and volunteers to run a single race, with 4 weeks' notice?

And let's be clear, Nation - he and his party have had far, FAR more than 4 weeks' notice. Every single person who has been paying attention to Alberta politics for the past 3 months knew that the Premier was going to have to call a by-election to replace Ron Stevens - and he would have to do so no later than November. We've known since Stevens stepped down that this day was coming - and there are no "mulligans" in politics.

Paul's party shares some of the blame in this... as I pointed out on this blog, the Wildrose Alliance should very well be able to mobilize a huge sum of money and volunteers to fight this race. This is the provincial fruit of Reform's loins. Organization is what they do. And while they are, of course, locked in a leadership race right now, you can NOT convince me that the reason the WAP can't fund Hinman and supply him with volunteers is because the entire oilpatch, and the silent, disenfranchised conservative majority of Albertans are too focused on the Willerton-Smith-Dyrholm race to actually help a member of the party get ELECTED to the Legislature.

If the WAP is actually deserving of the attention they've been getting all summer from the MSM and the blogs alike - if they are, as they insist, the Party of business and of the hundreds of thousands of conservative Albertans that the PC's have abandoned, then they should already have tens of thousands in the bank and thousands of man-hours committed by volunteers from across the province, all determined to winning the WAP - the "next big thing" of Albertan politics, ready to form government as soon as 2012 - their first urban seat.

They don't.

If they did, Hinman wouldn't already be making excuses.

Hinman knows he has come up against the "perfect storm" of Alberta politics - a well-connected, well-funded, well-respected local politician with progressive social views, good fiscal conservative bona fides, strong volunteers from all over the city, and a history of working with the now-defunct PC Party of Canada and the Conservative Party of Canada, through the constituency board of Prime Minister Harper. She's got him beat on the left, AND the right. She's not a shoo-in, by any means - Colley-Urquhart is going to have to mount a huge "get out the vote" effort to get voters out to the polls and avoid becoming the next Brian Heninger - but Colley-Urquhart is the prohibitive favourite, not just to outsiders looking in, but also to the WAP campaign in Glenmore. And so, Hinman goes - less than 2 hours into the race - to the "no fair" card.

Perhaps the best sign, though, that Hinman has all but given up is who he's blaming for his impending defeat.

"People are busy and not engaged in politics as they should be," Hinman is quoted as having said in the Herald.

Hear that, "people"? You're not as engaged as you should be. So when Paul Hinman loses this race, it's going to be YOUR fault - not his, or his party's.

That's the problem with this "democracy" thing... letting the "people" decide.

You should all be ashamed for making Paul lose.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Municipal Rumblings

Nation, I - like the rest of you - sit around for much of the day pondering the mile-a-minute thrill-ride that is the race for municipal office. The long line-ups at polling stations, the 90% voter participation rate, and the long, open and vigorous debates about our city's future all make my spine tingle...

Okay. So maybe I'm forcing the issue JUST a little bit...

Nevertheless, there is, in fact, a municipal election coming to our Burg on the Bow, in October of 2010. And the rumblings are already beginning as to who may in fact be considering a run - either at "the big chair" or for aldermanic office.

Truth be told, municipal elections make for a fascinating study of retail politics. With the voter turn-out so embarrassingly low, the old adage that "the best Get Out The Vote operation wins" becomes etched-in-stone truth. People considering a run for city office in 14 months have to decide, and pronto, if they're actually going to go through with it... with no "party apparatus" to assist in fundraising, as we have at the higher levels of government, candidates face the monumental task of raising funds themselves, and without the ability to issue tax receipts. And while this is SLIGHTLY easier for incumbents and front-runners, the road to city hall is paved with the political carcasses of great, enthusiastic, visionary people who wanted to serve in city government, but couldn't raise enough money to get their message out to the masses.

Social media in general, and Twitter in particular, have levelled the playing field slightly, as candidates can get their message out to the "wired voter" for little or no cost. It's still only a drop in the bucket compared to a radio ad, direct mailer or ads on the side of a bus - but, it's a start. The web (in particular, Twitter) has also been buzzing with rumours of notable civic citizens considering a run, or "Draft such-and-such" movements.

Among the notables being mentioned (Wards for reference only, given changing boundaries and the fact that, for all I know, they're running for Mayor or school trustee, and not Alderman):

Steve Chapman - a friend of this blog, Chapman ran in 2007, for Ward 8 Alderman. He's big on law and order - the ideas (and maybe the t.v. show, for all I know - I'm more of an NCIS guy myself).
Lindsay Luhnau - also ran for Alderman of Ward 8 in 2007. A great candidate, who has a lot of great ideas for this city's future.
Jeremy Zhao - Another great, young mind - ran for Mayor in 2007. Answers currently to "the Alderman for Ward 15". Now runs PolitiCalgary blog.
DJ Kelly - good friend of this blog, arts activist, blogger, and all-around mensch. Understands this strange thing that much of council seems oblivious to - I believe it's called "nuance".
Zach Pashak - the Sled Island organizer has announced his intention to run in Ward 8. Reading his manifesto, one gets the idea he thinks that Ward 8 should declare itself an independent republic - or, at the very least, cut off tax dollars to the "sprawling suburbs". Because those million-dollar homes in the suburbs don't pay any taxes that go into, say, police officers who patrol Ward 8.
Naheed Nenshi - Chief cook and bottle-washer at the Better Calgary Campaign, instructor at Mount Royal College (GO COUGARS!), and well-known local political commentator. Has an inspiring vision for everything this city could be - if we're brave enough to make it so.
The Former Independent Candidate for Calgary-Egmont - While he's tied up in the current WAP leadership race, he's reportedly quite insistent that he has his eyes fixed on "bigger things". Reports persist, though, that he has his eyes set on running municipally in the ward that may be vacated by a sitting alderman-cum-mayoral candidate. TOTALLY unrelated note: Does anyone know what jersey number Patrick Marleau wears for the San Jose Sharks? Anyhow - with his organizational muscle, municipal politics is where this potential candidate could have the best chance of finding himself on the public's payroll.
Dave Breakenridge - While insisting that the effort would be better turned to that OTHER Breakenridge, this columnist for the Calgary Sun is the subject of a small-but-building "Draft Dave" campaign on Twitter - he's opinionated, and yet also willing to listen to arguments on the other side. A nice change from the current council.

On the other side of the ledger, names I have heard bandied about that I can assure you have NO intention of running municipally include:

Dan Arnold - Dan likes Calgary, don't get me wrong. But he's a little busy back east, trying to re-build the Liberal Party and gloating over the "Best Political Blog" title he stole from me in 2008. ;)
Kirk Schmidt - Kirk has settled into a life behind the scenes, politically - his interests lie elsewhere at this time.
Dave Taylor - The MLA for Calgary-Currie was rumoured to be mulling a run at the Mayor's chair. He's more likely to stay where he is, or pursue opportunities in his previous field.
The Enlightened Savage - While I'm flattered to be considered, I have my eyes fixed on another position, at another level of government. Stay tuned. :)

And, right in the middle of the page, we find a list of names that have been brought up in conversation, and would be interesting candidates yet have neither confirmed nor denied interest:

Cathie Williams - former school board trustee ran for MLA in 2008.
Joe Ceci - rumours have abounded that he has been considering a stab at the "big chair" - but with Bronco announcing he intends to run again, a split of the left wouldn't benefit Ceci at all.
Danielle Smith - obviously, she has bigger fish to fry at the moment. But many have pointed out that if she fails to win the Wildrose Alliance leadership in October, she's a very politically attractive candidate for mayor - straight-talking, fiscally conservative, socially moderate and benefiting from name recognition. She'd be seen as a mayor who could "stand up to the Provincial Government" without having to whine and pull cheap stunts, like other mayors who shall remain nameless.

DISCUSS, Nation - who would YOU like to see on the next council?