Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Perfecting Alberta, Part 4: Taxes

Okay, Nation... so, we've solved the healthcare issue, overhauled Alberta's educational system, and set up the economy to succeed. Now, as the government of the future, it's time to figure out how to PAY for all this.

That's right... it's time to talk Tax Policy.

Even in the Perfect Alberta, we still have to find a way to PAY for our fantastic quality of life and standard of living... and that means taxes.

How should the people and businesses of Alberta be taxed? And at what levels?

What I want to hear about, specifically, includes issue like Corporate tax rates versus small business rates (and what constitutes a "small business")... personal income tax, and if we should even HAVE one... user fees for optional services, versus mandatory fees (aka "taxes") like the recently-departed Health Care Premiums... and yes, energy Royalties.

Should we have hospitality taxes, for attractions and accommodations? Energy taxes on things like gasoline and electricity? Taxes that only visitors pay, while residents are exempt?

It's all on the table, Nation. You decide: How does the Alberta of the future pay the bills?

We've seen the folly in the last year of paying the bills with a bank account that is overwhelmingly tied to a single sector of the economy... how do we secure our finances for the next generation, and beyond?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Perfecting Alberta, Part 3: Economics and Industry

Keep the comments rolling in, Nation - the only way we can secure a more perfect future for our children and their children is to imagine that Alberta today, demand it of our leaders, and articulate it well enough that they can make it a reality.

Today and for the next few days, I want to hear your vision for Alberta's economic future. Now, we're not talking about spending, or savings, or the Heritage Fund today. Neither are we talking about tax policy. Rather, I want to hear about the REAL economy in Alberta. Businesses that Martha and Henry set up, and then go public with - or pass on to their kids.

Among the sectors that could be touched on:
  • Energy (traditional and alternative)
  • Mining
  • Forestry
  • Tourism
  • Agriculture
  • Bio-tech
  • Technology
  • Manufacturing
  • Service
... and many more...

In our lifetimes, the traditional stockpile of petroleum is likely going to become less and less of an economic driver, due to reduced supply or technological advances leading to a reduced demand. How are we going to replace this gigantic piece of Alberta's economic pie?

So, I put it to you, Nation: How would YOU set up Alberta's economy of the future?

If you want to nationalize industry rather than leaving it up to the market, that's your choice... I'll warn you now, though, that I don't think Martha and Henry will go for it...

And thinking outside the box is okay, too... remember, at some point 60 years ago, someone looked at a bald patch of desert and had the words "Las Vegas" pop into his head...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Perfecting Alberta, Part 2: Primary and Secondary Education

Nation, I want to thank everyone for their contributions so far. This is a critically important time in our province's history, and these kinds of discussions need to be had in the public sphere for Albertans of ALL walks of life to read and contribute.

The fact that new posts are going up in this series should not stop you from continuing the conversations in previous posts. By all means, keep the conversation going!

The next stop on the "Perfecting Alberta Whistlestop Tour" is education, from Kindergarten up to an including Grade 12.

Albertan students routinely perform at or near the top in national examinations... so, by the most basic of measures, the argument can be made that our education system ain't broke - so why are we trying to fix it?

The reality is that this is the 2nd largest consumer of public funds in the province, after health care. There are places we should be spending more, there are doubtless places we should be spending less, and as far as test results go, I'm reminded of the old adage "Good enough, never is". The fact that we're above average shouldn't stop us from trying to do even better. Why settle for a B when hard work could get you the A?

From class sizes to pre-school, from charter schools to curriculum to splitting the ATA into 2 separate entities (union/certification body), from collective bargaining to results-based-pay, there's a lot to talk about when it comes to possible changes to our education system. One thing, though, is indisputable: Our educational system in this province is absolutely tied to our future as a place of economic and cultural and scientific strength. The lessons that our children learn in these classrooms determines the future for ALL of us who will live here in the future.

We can't afford to screw things up, making change for change's sake.

So, Nation, I put it to you: How would YOU shape our educational system for the next generation?

All legal options can be considered. (The constitution requires the maintaining of a Catholic school system, funded by the province, separate from the public system. Before anyone goes there.)

Fire away.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Perfecting Alberta, Part 1: Health Care

Nation, this type of thing is exactly what makes Blogs so much more powerful than the print media... the ability to have an interactive discussion.

Over the next while, I'm going to be using this space to facilitate a discussion among the millions of faithful members of the E.S. Nation about a variety of policy areas, all targeted towards one goal: Perfecting Alberta.

To better facilitate something resembling "real time" conversation, I have (after much hesitation) disabled the "moderated comments" function on the blog, so your comments won't live in cyber-limbo waiting for me to check my email. Don't make me regret it. :)

What I DON'T want is this: Attacking a contributor because of the political party you believe they support. Personal attacks. Partisan hackery (e.g. "my perfect Alberta: no liberals", or "to fix this, we just have to elect Brian Mason").

What I DO want is to hear the best ideas, from all sides of the political spectrum. We have an opportunity, through this medium, to come together as engaged citizens and re-make this province.

All ideas are on the table. I don't want to hear about what's wrong... I want to hear about how we FIX it.

First topic open for debate on the floor of the virtual legislature: Health Care. It's up to you, Nation. All legal options are on the table. How would YOU fix Health Care in Alberta?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

City Council Continues the Snow Job

If there's an Alderman who needs replacing more than Bob Hawkesworth, I can't fathom whom it would be, Nation.

The Calgary City Council's Standing Policy Committee on Land Use, Planning & Transportation on Wednesday voted to recommend that the entire Council hold the line on what has got to be the worst snow removal plan in a major snow-bound urban centre since the Iron Age.

For those of you who have forgotten, the snow removal last winter was so woefully inadequate that the city issued a press release asking residents to stop calling 311 about residential snow removal. (For that matter, it was woefully inadequate the winter BEFORE last, as well.)

Their complete refusal to remove snow from their property, mind you, didn't stop them from issuing threats of fines to citizens who failed to remove snow from their own sidewalks within a couple of days of a snowfall. You lowly citizens have to remove snow, because if you don't, people could get hurt by slipping.

By comparison, of course, it's not humanly possible to get hurt on an icy residential street. You're only in a 1,000-pound vehicle travelling between 9 and 15 metres per second. The kids in that school bus or cross-walk will just have to suck it up and deal with it as you skid into them... after all, we'd have to raise taxes to pay for better snow removal. By far, the better policy position is to cross our fingers and pray for a Chinook that might take 3 to 4 weeks to get here.

Oh, and by the way - you can't plow your own street or alley. We'll give you a ticket for that. And no, we can't give you permission to do it before-hand, no matter HOW many winters you worked snow removal in Winnipeg - you might damage a fire hydrant.

Nation, I'm not worried about plowing into someone on Anderson Road - I'm worried about plowing into them on Woodpark Boulevard, or Bonaventure Drive, or Queensland Road. Residential roads, all. With hills. And crosswalks. And schools. And day-cares.

I can't wiggle my ears and make my car just APPEAR on a plowed major road, and neither can you - I have to drive on these icy, un-plowed residential roads to GET to the major routes. And stop (or TRY to, at any rate) at a traffic light or go through an icy interchange that was last sanded 72 hours ago to get ONTO the major road.

Firstly, I don't accept that it's all or nothing on this issue. I don't believe there's no happy medium between "$22 Million worth of crappy service" and "$100 Million where every street has a plow parked at the end, waiting for the first flake to fall". Hawkesworth seems to suggest there's no middle ground.

"I just don't see that citizens would want it, nor is it necessary."
- Ald. Bob Hawkesworth, on protecting the citizens of Calgary during Calgary's 6 month-long winters

Calgary police responded to over 180 collisions and another 20 injury accidents by 4:00 p.m.

EMS was so busy that they initiated a Red Alert for approximately 5 minutes around 1:00 p.m., and treated injured motorists in over 30 accidents.

"Between nine and 12 we had 40 calls and on a normal Sunday for a four or five hour period, we get one to two calls," said Paul LaPointe from Calgary EMS,"we of course have our normal call volume which we have day to day, so on top of that, we have all these motor vehicle collisions that we had to deal with."
-, Sunday, December 7th, 2008

And even if I DID accept Alderman Bob's "all or nothing" position, we're talking about a difference of $80 Million per year. That's $80 for each Calgarian, to make sure that every possible thing that COULD be done to protect us during the ridiculously long winters we get here, WOULD be done. We'd all save that on auto insurance premiums alone.

Where do I send my cheque?

Attachments: The agenda for the meeting where this was discussed. This asinine recommendation goes to full Council on September 28th. Pay attention to who votes to accept the recommendation, and remember that when you go to the polls next October. Or when you slide into a curb in your neighbourhood because you were driving a reckless 10 km/h on a road still covered in snow and ice 5 days after the snow stopped falling.

At the bottom of the document is the report itself, and a list of 4 attachments (major routes in Saskatoon are cleared within 12 hours of snowfall - Calgary commits to "through-plowing" 90% of them within 48 hours), which I've included below.

Attachment 1: Winter Maintenance Comparison: Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon
Attachment 2: TAC Winter Severity Analysis for Calgary
Attachment 3: City's Ridiculous Push-Poll on Snow and Ice Control
Attachment 4: Chart of Residential Street Enhancement Options

Smith vs. Dyrholm, Today from that little speaker on your desk...

The 2 remaining leadership hopefuls for the Wildrose Alliance, Danielle Smith and Mark Dyrholm, will be taking questions and calls on the Rutherford Show on CHQR (770 on your AM dial) during the 11 o'clock hour.

Reactions and thoughts in the comments section of this post, please. :)

- E.S.

p.s. If anyone reading today was at last night's WAP Leadership Debate (when there were THREE candidates), I'd love to hear your thoughts and observations as well.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

... and, just because I haven't been given enough to write about today...

... Rahim Jaffer has been charged (NOT convicted, CHARGED) with drunk driving and posession of cocaine.

Certainly not something you'd hope for.

Cabinet Shuffle... sort of...

Len Webber, the MLA for Calgary-Foothills, has been named the new Minister of International and Intergovernmental Relations for the province of Alberta (Premier Stelmach had been doing the job after Ron Stevens' retirement).

Also, a shuffle in the Parliamentary Assistants, as Jonathan Denis (who is NOT the Enlightened Savage), MLA for Calgary-Egmont, has been named Parliamentary Assistant for Energy, Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Broyce Jacobs becomes the Parliamentary Assistant for Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD), and Battle River-Wainwright MLA/social media lover Doug Griffiths moves from his role as the Parliamentary Assistant in ARD to become the Parliamentary Assistant for the Department of Solicitor General and Public Security.

I don't know Jacobs personally, but I've met Len Webber, Jonathan Denis and Doug Griffiths, and found them all to be exemplary public servants, who put their constituents first. Congratulations, gentlemen.

- E.S.

p.s. Minister Webber - now we've REALLY got to get you using Twitter! My offer from the #PCPC still stands. ;)

The Morning After the Day After By-Election Day

Well, Nation... there was a little bit of an event happening on Monday night in the provincial constituency of Calgary-Glenmore.

The unofficial poll results from Elections Alberta are an interesting read. They're especially interesting when compared with the results from the most recent General Election in Alberta, in March of 2008.

PC (Stevens) 6,436 votes
Liberal (Roberts) 4,213 votes
WAP (Sadler) 1,025
Green (Bonokoski) 550 votes
NDP (Heffernan) 477 votes

45.5% voter participation


PC (Colley-Urquhart) 2,863 votes (down 56%)
Liberal (Roberts) 3,776 votes (down 10%)
WAP (Hinman) 4,052 votes (increase by 295%)
NDP (Carpendale) 148 votes (down 69%)
SC (Skowronski) 118 votes
ind. (Grochowski) 71 votes

40.5% voter participation

Now, every single candidate deserves our thanks and respect for caring enough about the health of our democracy to put their name forward. I want to spend a little time, though, dealing with the "DRP factor" and the 2 parties of the left, and then talk about what went wrong (and right) for the parties of the right.

Overall, voter participation dropped by 5% between the general election and the by-election - which, truthfully, isn't all that bad, for a by-election. It's still embarassing as heck that Afghanistan can record higher voter turn-outs than Alberta while voters there are operating under explicit threats of murder and violence if they dare to vote - but that's a blog post for another day.

The NDP vote all but disappeared in this by-election. It COULD be argued, I suppose, that those votes might have been driven to Avalon Roberts of the Liberals by the "DRP movement" - but even if that WERE the case, Avalon's own numbers dropped by 10%. While the math may support "unite the left" strategies in some ridings, it's clear that in Calgary-Glenmore, the only thing that can get the Liberals elected is either a 3-or-more-way split of the conservative vote, or the conservative voters staying home, as they did in the Calgary-Elbow by-election in 2007. Similarly, the only thing that can get the NDP elected in this riding is if nobody but the New Democrats notices that there's an election happening.

Now, before we look at what happened a few days ago, I want to get a frame of reference. Let's take a (very brief) look at the Calgary-Elbow by-election of 2007.

Elbow had, in the previous General Election, re-elected Ralph Klein as MLA by a comfortable 2,000 vote margin over his Liberal challenger. Voter turn-out in 2004 was at 52.4%. In the by-election to replace Klein, held in 2007, voter participation plummeted by nearly 18%, down to 34.6% overall. The Liberal candidate lost only 2% of votes versus 2004, which means when one factors in the overall decline in participation, their popular support actually increased. By comparison, the loyalty of local voters to Klein rather than to the PC Party brand was evident, as the Tory candidate lost 42% of Klein's voters from 2004. The Liberal went on to spend 9 months as an MLA, before being ousted in the 2008 General Election (overall voter turn-out rose by 13.6%; Liberal turn-out increased by 16%, PC turn-out improved by 34%).

The Glenmore by-election is different, for a few reasons.

Firstly, in the 2007 by-election, Ed Stelmach had been leader of the PC Party and Premier for only 6 months. The PC's had replaced a popular local candidate who just HAPPENED to be a former mayor of the city, and Premier of Alberta, with someone who had good credibility among the local power elite, but little recognition with the common voter. The PC's took for granted that they would hold on to Ralph's seat. With "the new guy" in charge, and a lot of Calgary PC organizers still stinging over the defeat of Calgary leadership hopefuls Ted Morton and Jim Dinning, the voters let the PC Party know how they felt about how "their guy", Ralph, had been treated by the party. Mostly, by staying home and letting the Liberal candidate take the seat.

The 2008 General Election ends the Glenmore-Elbow comparison on one hand, and acts as the first book-end of the larger Glenmore story.

In the 2008 General Election, Ed Stelmach had been Premier for nearly a year and a half. Times were good, money was being spent on projects and programs that made people feel warm and fuzzy. Fall-out from the new royalty regime was purely hypothetical. All that said, though, the people of Alberta - and particularly the mainstream media - missed the charisma of Ralph. They thought of the new leader as a "come up the middle" choice for leader of the PC's, despite the fact that Stelmach was the FIRST choice of more party members than either Dinning OR Morton in the 2nd round of the race. The PC's were drifting, and vulnerable according to many.

So the election was held... and the PC's cruised to a dominating victory of Klein-esque proportions. In Elbow, which they had lost in a by-election 9 months earlier, voter turn-out increased by 13.6% overall, and for the Tories it increased by 34%. Even when you consider that a rising tide raises all ships, the Tory voters had come back to the fold in the General Election. In Calgary-Glenmore, 45.5% of the electorate showed up, and a majority of them voted for the PC candidate, popular incumbent and Stelmach's top lieutenant Ron Stevens. Province-wide, the"drifting, aimless, rudderless, leaderless, wishy-washy, over-the-hill" Tories won 72 of 83 seats. Stelmach had won the day by showing himself to be a cautious, thoughtful leader - not the firebrand visionary that many Albertans hoped to see, and not the shoot-from-the-lip everyman that had been Ralph at the start of his tenure, but the clear choice to lead the province through what might be unsure waters ahead.

In September of 2008, the bottom began to fall out of world stock markets and energy prices began to plummet. All of a sudden, the "rainy day" for which we had been saving was upon us. And then things got worse. Energy companies were closing up shop, or scaling back production. People were out of work. A global economic crisis was affecting economies all over the world - and Alberta was no exception. Indeed, the only thing exceptional about Alberta was the fact that, as a debt-free constituency with money in the bank, it was better prepared than virtually every other jurisdiction - with or without oil - to come out of this period of crisis relatively unscathed.

However, when people lose jobs, when their standard of living drops, when they get scared, they look for someone to blame. And the government of the day is an easy target. No sooner than the government had finished tabling its first deficit budget in years, opposition parties started referring to Stelmach as "in the red Ed". The PC's were (still) "rudderless and out of touch", according to newspaper columnists desperate to seem relevant and cutting-edge ("angry" sells more papers than "happy"). Suddenly, the money that was being spent on projects and programs that made everyone feel good was deemed by the public to be "unneccesary". Cuts were needed. The 2 biggest slices of the pie, Health and Education, are impossible to even TALK about cutting without whipping various unions into a frenzy of fear-mongering. Reports were coming out suggesting that energy companies, burnt once by the fact that their business landscape had shifted under their feet with Alberta's new royalty regime, were looking at drilling elsewhere. In the space of a few short months, Stelmach had gone from "King Eddie" to the media's favourite whipping boy - and there was a new force on the horizon.

The Wildrose Alliance, born from the union of the populist Wildrose Party and the conservative Alberta Alliance Party, was attracting interest from disenchanted Tories who wanted to turn the clock back to the time when the government ran a surplus, "progressive" was a code word for Liberal, and the metric system was a tool of communists like Trudeau. The growing perception of the PC Party as being "too inclusive", or a party of convenience lacking any real "conservative policies", drove conservatives concerned about their image to this new party. Many of these supporters were old-time Reformers, from the Preston Manning days. It sometimes bears repeating that while Reform never actually formed government - they DID force the federal PC's to change the way they did and viewed things, giving birth to the current Conservative Party in the process. One could argue, that was Preston's whole point.

The Wildrose Alliance has spent the summer trying to find itself. Or, more accurately, they're in the middle of a leadership contest. One of the candidates in particular, Danielle Smith, is seen as being a real threat to the Tories, as she shares many policies in common with your average Tory voter without the baggage of actually BEING a PC - which gives your potential PC voter a real alternative, for the first time in a VERY long time, that doesn't involve voting for a Liberal candidate or selling out your socially moderate views. Summer being the political vacuum that it is, the leadership race has gotten a LOT of attention in the media - people know about this party. The one thing they DON'T know - which makes this week's Glenmore result all the more surprising - is what this party is going to stand for 6 months from now. 3 possibilities exist - either the party will be a reflection of Danielle Smith (fiscally conservative, socially moderate), it will be a reflection of one of the other 2 leadership contenders (fiscally and socially conservative), or it will be in a state of turmoil, if the party membership decides that, on second thought, we don't want to move the party to reflect the chosen leader, we want the chosen leader to move THEIR positions to reflect the grassroots membership - which is code for "whatever special interest sells the most memberships before an important meeting".

Back to Glenmore. Ron Stevens, the Deputy Premier of Alberta gets a better offer. They want to make him a judge. Ron accepts, and we've got ourselves a by-election. Opinions are offered as to how the various parties will do - some analysis proves more correct than others. And at the end of the day, voters heed Wildrose Alliance candidate Hinman's call to "send Ed a message", when the voter turn-out drops by only 5% overall, but the Tories lose 56% of their support from 19 months ago. Klein couldn't have lost 56% of his support if he'd started mugging little old ladies in dark alleys. Message sent, and received.

What is the message that the voters have sent Ed?

In a nutshell, the message is Paul Hinman, and whatever he DECIDES the message is. That's the problem with the provincial ballot - you mark an "x", and the candidates get to read those tea leaves however they want.

Is the message "we don't like Ed"? If it IS, then the question becomes: Why? Because he's not from Calgary, like Ralph and Dinning and Morton? Because he's not a "city guy"? Because the cabinet doesn't have enough Calgarians? Calgary doesn't have a finished ring-road? Oil and gas producers are nervous? The government is in a deficit position? He's got a funny haircut?

The more important question, for Ed and for the PC's, is "what can we DO about that message?". Ultimately, even if you CAN distill this result into a particular message, and figure out specifically WHY people voted the way they did, on an issue by issue basis, what are the solutions? Will adding more Calgary MLA's to cabinet do it? Re-jigging the Royalty framework yet AGAIN? (by the way, even revisions in FAVOUR of the energy producers make them more nervous about setting up here, because of the frequent changes - we need to decide on a framework, and guarantee no changes for a set period of time. THAT will calm down the jittery nerves of the energy companies)

No matter what he does, Ed will never be a "Calgary guy" - he's not from here. There's no 2 ways about it. He can think like us, he can talk like us, he can dress like us, but he's not one of us. And you know what? He doesn't HAVE to be - nor should he be EXPECTED to be just like us to govern us. He should be judged on his ability to do the job - not on where he was raised. The irony is, that's the argument we were ALL, current PC or WAP supporter alike, throwing towards Ontario when they were refusing to give Preston and Stockwell and Stephen the time of day, because they were from "somewhere other than here".

Stelmach has a vested interest in this city - he has children and grandchildren living here. To suggest that he doesn't care what happens south of Red Deer is ridiculous. And yet... there it is. He's not from here. Is the message that the PC's should pick a leader from Calgary? I wonder how Edmontonians would react to our refusal to accept a leader not from our shining city on the hill...

Oh, wait, no I don't... I already know.

1992 - Ralph Klein comes from behind to win the PC Party leadership from rival Edmonton MLA Nancy Betkowski, and becomes Premier.

1993 - PC's win 17 of 20 seats in Calgary, 0 of 18 in Edmonton.

1997 - PC's win 20 of 21 seats in Calgary, 2 of 19 in Edmonton

2001 - PC's win 21 of 21 seats in Calgary, 11 of 19 in Edmonton.

2004 - PC's win 20 of 23 seats in Calgary, 3 of 18 in Edmonton.

The old adage that "all politics is local" certainly seems to ring true... While Ralph was in charge of the PC's, Calgary overwhelmingly supported the party, while Edmonton earned the nickname "Redmonton" by rejecting Klein the Calgarian for most of his reign.

Fast forward to 2008 - Ed Stelmach, from outside Edmonton, had been Premier for over a year, so it was considered a fair test of his leadership and popularity on a provincial scale. The result?

2008 - PC's win 18 of 23 seats in Calgary, 13 of 18 in Edmonton.

The PC's under Stelmach lose 2 seats (now 3) to the opposition in Calgary, but steal 10 seats from the opposition in Edmonton.

Since then, however, we've had the thrill-ride of the global economic crisis (which Eddie didn't cause), and the implementation, re-jigging, re-implementation and re-re-jigging of the new royalty framework for energy producers in Alberta (which Eddie DID cause).

Is Calgary-Glenmore the start of a trend? Will Ed Stelmach as leader of the PC's turn this into an "opposition town"? And if so, why?

If it's for reasons of policy, I can live with that. But if Calgary turns against Stelmach and the PC's because he doesn't have Klein's mailing address, charisma, or style - then that's, in my opinion, a shoddy way to determine your leaders.

There's discontent in Calgary-Glenmore. There's discontent within the city as a whole. The province. Even within the PC Party itself. Times are tough. People want to "send Ed a message". The Hinman campaign capitalized on this sentiment brilliantly, to their credit. This wasn't one or two polls going to Hinman - he won in 32 of 66 polls. Support for him was wide-spread across the riding. People were telling Diane Colley-Urquhart at the doors that they supported her for Alderman, and would do so again, but they couldn't cast a vote for the PC's under Stelmach. Other Calgary PC's have heard the same.

But if the voters want their message to be heard - they've got to first figure out what their problem with Ed is, and what it will take to make it better. Because "I'm angry, and I don't know why, but I don't like you" is a bad head-space to be in when you're choosing someone to manage a multi-billion-dollar corporation.

Before the economic crisis, Albertans decided they wanted Ed Stelmach and the PC's to run the province. Calgarians, at least those in Glenmore, seem to be having second thoughts. But they need to decide if their issues are based on policy, or on geography.

Ed's had mis-steps along the way. He's made mistakes. He's made gaffes. Such is life when your every word and move is public domain. It's not too late to re-focus, re-energize the troops, and come up with a well-articulated vision for this province. Because Ed Stelmach and the PC Party shouldn't respond to this by trying to tinker with the car stereo to win back 15% of the 45% of people who bother to vote. They should take this opportunity to overhaul the engine, set themselves up for the next 30 years, and try to appeal to the 55% of Albertans who AREN'T voting.


New Canadians.

Disenchanted, disenfranchised, disinterested.

Give people something to believe in. Give them the candidates they deserve. Tell them what their lives will be like in 20 years. Tell them about the Alberta their kids will inherit.

Shoot for the moon.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Live-blogging from DCU Campaign Headquarters

Nation, as you read on daveberta, I'll be live-tweeting and live-blogging the results for the Glenmore by-election as they come in. Updates will be posted at the bottom of this post.


As of 8:30, only the mobile polls have come in.

Colley-Urquhart (PC) 7
Roberts (Lib) 5
Hinman (WAP) 3
Carpendale (NDP) 1
Skowronski (SC) 1
Grochowski (ind.) 0


4 polls in

Colley-Urquhart (PC) 84
Roberts (Lib) 110
Hinman (WAP) 166
Carpendale (NDP) 7
Skowronski (SC) 8
Grochowski (ind.) 2

12 polls of 66

Colley-Urquhart (PC) 413
Roberts (Lib) 442
Hinman (WAP) 566
Carpendale (NDP) 26
Skowronski (SC) 18
Grochowski (ind.) 14


46 out of 66 reporting.

Colley-Urquhart (PC) 1821
Roberts (Lib) 2291
Hinman (WAP) 2632
Carpendale (NDP) 89
Skowronski (SC) 81
Grochowski (ind.) 51


53 of 66

Colley-Urquhart (PC) 2081
Roberts (Lib) 2696
Hinman (WAP) 3035
Carpendale (NDP) 110
Skowronski (SC) 92
Grochowski (ind.) 57


63 of 66

Colley-Urquhart (PC) 2491
Roberts (Lib) 3321
Hinman (WAP) 3611
Carpendale (NDP) 140
Skowronski (SC) 105
Grochowski (ind.) 65

Advance and special polls not in yet - could make a big difference to Hinman and Roberts. Stay tuned.

Hearing Avalon Roberts has conceded to Paul Hinman, with only the advance poll waiting to report.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

E.S. Nation Correspondents in Glenmore - Sound Off!

If you're in attendance tonight at the Calgary-Glenmore candidates' forum, post your thoughts and observations as comments to this post.

- E.S.

E.S. Nation Correspondents in Edmonton - Sound Off!

If you're in Edmonton for the Wildrose Alliance leadership debate tonight, post your thoughts as comments to this post.

- E.S.

T-Minus 4 Days...

(edited on Sept. 11 to correct a pretty big typo - content otherwise unchanged)

Nation, the Calgary-Glenmore by-election is entering its home stretch, and I thought now would be a good time to wade into the fray - especially considering that your humble scribe has his bachelor party scheduled for this Saturday, and may be... ill-equipped to blog on Sunday.

The Glenmore race has been heating up the internet since the moment it was announced - as a matter of fact, since BEFORE it was announced. I want to deal with each candidate seperately, since in a melee situation like the one we've had develop, keeping a balanced perspective can sometimes be problematic, at best.

In the interests of fairness, I'll talk about each candidate and their campaign alphabetically.

Eric Carpendale, Alberta's NDP

Carpendale has been nearly invisible to the public eye during this campaign. I drive through the riding every single day and have yet to see a lawn sign. Now, there may in fact be any number of good reasons for this - maybe the NDP is spending their money on things other than lawn signs in this race. Maybe Carpendale is knocking on every door in a suit and tie, and attending every school council meeting and community breakfast in the riding. But, in looking at the NDP website, you can't help but wonder if they're really offering him anything but token support.

In his effort to boost the NDP caucus by 50%, Carpendale is taking an odd approach - at least, odd for a New Democrat: He's criticising the Stelmach government's fiscal management. It's an interesting approach from the NDP, as it shows that they're capable of putting fire-and-brimstone ideaology on the back-burner for the sake of political reality: Fiscal management is a big deal, and a hot-button issue, in this riding.

Bottom Line: Carpendale is a young candidate who's been saddled with the unenviable task of appealing to an electorate that is looking for someone to replace their recently departed "elder statesman" of Ron Stevens. By most accounts he's an engaging personality one-on-one - he's a union leader, a father of 2, and a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces, for which he deserves the utmost respect. With some more polish he might be the future of the NDP in Alberta - but that future is not today.

Carpendale on Twitter

Diane Colley-Urquhart, Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta

Colley-Urquhart finds herself in an unfamiliar situation in Calgary-Glenmore. She's trying to make the jump from popular alderman to MLA, however many of the people who support her as an alderman are backing other candidates in this race - and that support, or lack thereof, has nothing to do with Diane herself. She's running for a party that just tabled a $6.9 Billion deficit and has a leader who is never going to be given a fair shake by the voters of Calgary because he's from "up there", and beat 2 Calgarians for the leadership.

Ed Stelmach could dive across an intersection to shield a baby carriage from an oncoming truck on MacLeod Trail, and he'd be criticized by locals for holding up traffic.

Diane has been hitting the doors of Calgary-Glenmore at a blistering pace, and has a pretty good sign prescence in the communities - once you get off the corners and the main arteries, you see as many of her signs on the cul-de-sacs and private lawns as anyone else's - and more than most candidates. She's a practicing nurse, so she's aware of the health care issues that are so important to residents of the riding, and she's got a solid fiscal voting record to stand on. Detractors have suggested that she'd be just another voiceless back-bencher, but there are ample reasons to believe that Diane's voice would be an important one on issues such as transportation and health for a caucus desperate to show it does, in fact, care about Calgary - and a cabinet role isn't out of the question, either. She is still serving residents of her ward as an alderman during the campaign, electing not to leave them without representation for the next year unless absolutely necessary, but is returning her salary to the city - so, she hasn't taken a leave-of-absence, but she's taken a pay cut of 100% during the campaign.

Bottom Line: She's hungry, and is drawing enthusiastic support from the PC ranks all over the city - people who know how to win. It will be a challenge to inspire voters to come out in a by-election and vote for the status quo, but such is the life of the by-election candidate running for the governmening party. If her volunteers pound the Get Out The Vote hard enough, Diane could find herself in a new job.

Colley-Urquhart on Twitter
Colley-Urquhart campaign website

Antoni (Tony) Grochowski, Independent

A veteran of municipal (mayor in 2004, ward 10 in 2005, seperate school trustee in 2007), provincial (for the SoCreds in 2008) and federal (independent, 2008) races in the past, Grochowski throws his hat into the ring this time as an independent candidate in Calgary-Glenmore.

An architect by training, Grochowski clearly has a deep desire for public service. He has in the past espoused views opposed to smoking bans, and in favour of Bishop Fred Henry's call for an end to funding Catholic school programs with gaming funds.

Bottom Line: Independent campaigns can win, but only if they're well-organized. Tony deserves all the credit in the world for running... but to be taken seriously, he's going to have to pick a single job he wants to win, and work on getting his message out to voters. This won't be it.

Antoni appears to have no social media or internet prescence for this campaign.

Paul Hinman, Wildrose Alliance Party

A former MLA for the riding of Cardston-Taber-Warner, Hinman has served as the leader of the Wildrose Alliance Party since its inception, and is currently serving as its interim leader until the conclusion of their leadership race.

Hinman's campaign has shown itself to be very capable and organized in the latter weeks of this race - while they got off to something of a slow start, they've more than made up for it since then with tireless door-knocking and a sign crew that seems to have a 4x8 sign on every corner - and more than a few private lawns, as well (go big or go home, I guess). The major theme of the campaign seems to be to capitalize on the discontent among Calgarians with the leadership of Ed Stelmach, as their campaign slogan even mentions Ed by name.

Wildrose Alliance supporters have been all over the internet, Twitter and the blogs, stumping for their guy - it's a good example of the kind of full-court press that other parties would be wise to emulate in the future (note to the parties: Hire a social media hotshot. Do what they say. Don't be luddites.). Like the early gold rushes, if you don't get your claim staked on the world wide web, someone else will stake it from underneath you. While Hinman is making some hay with his anti-Stelmach messaging, he's missing a particularly large plank of the Glenmore-centric platform by not talking about his proposed solution to the Ring Road debacle. Alberta-wide
solutions are good, but it's not a provincial campaign - it's a local one, and the people of Glenmore are electing a local representative to talk about their specific issues, not a new government.

Bottom Line: While Hinman has a natural ally in that the reality of by-elections suggests that the voter interested in change is more likely to come out than the satisfied voter, his campaign runs into a bit of trouble as a result of the current leadership race within his party. Albertan voters are used to thinking of their votes not as going to a candidate, but to the party under which that candidate runs. Hinman's campaign hasn't exactly discouraged this thinking, either, sugesting that a vote for Colley-Urquhart is in fact a vote of support for Stelmach. Where this comes back to bite them a bit is in the fact that, by extension then, a vote for Hinman is a vote for... whomever wins the WAP leadership race. Which, at this point, could mean either Danielle Smith, Mark Dyrholm or Jeff Willerton - 3 VERY different candidates, under whose leadership the party would end up occupying 3 very different spots of real estate on the Alberta political
spectrum. That uncertainlty as to what the party will stand for a year from now may force some potential WAP voters to shy away from voting for Hinman, for the time being.

On a side note, it still impresses the hell out of me that Hinman speaks Tagalog. It's a beautiful language that I'm trying to get a grip on, but that grip continues to evade me - well done, Paul.

Hinman campaign website

Avalon Roberts, Alberta Liberal Party

Dr. Avalon Roberts is a practicing psychiatrist and health care advocate with the Friends of Medicare, seeking election for the third time provincially (she has run twice before in Glenmore, as well as once federally in Calgary South West against that Harper fella). Her campaign is hoping for a repeat of the Craig Cheffins by-election victory in Calgary-Elbow, with the all-out war between the PC's and Wildrose Alliance facilitating a right-of-centre vote split.

Driving up and down the major roads in Calgary Glenmore, you'd think this was a three horse race for popular support. Indeed, Roberts has significant name recognition in this area because of her past political forays, and that recognition - combined with the growing focus of the Liberals on turning anti-Stelmach sentiment into capturing "Battleground Calgary", much as they were able to do with anti-Klein sentiment in Edmonton - could work in her favour here. There aren't a lot of Roberts signs on private property, but even when you're mad at the Premier for the very good and valid reason that "he's not from this city", putting up a Liberal sign in your yard is... a sketchy prospect, at best.

Roberts talks a lot about Calgary-Glenmore having "effective opposition" working for them in Edmonton... I don't know whether she intends that to mean that Ron Stevens, the Deputy Premier, was "INEFFECTIVE opposition", or that she thinks being across the room yelling at the cabinet benches is a better way to represent the people of Glenmore than actually being in the cabinet room, where the decisions are made - either way, it's a talking point that needed a bit more thought put into it before it became one of the central points of the campaign.

On the issue of the Ring Road, Roberts has remained publicly silent as far as I can tell. I'm particularly interested to hear her proposed solution to the issue, because of her involvement with the Weaselhead Society, which has come out strongly opposed to any contruction or road building that affects the Weaselhead natural area.

Bottom Line: Anyone who thinks Roberts can't win this race is fooling themselves. The Liberals are riding a high in this city since the last provincial election, and their supporters are VERY likely to come out in droves trying to wrest this seat from the Tories. The campaign has been a bit underwhelming overall, and a bit of a pall has been cast by the appearance in the past week of potentially illegal 3rd-party advertising on Avalon's behalf... but if the Colley-Urquhart and Hinman people back off the GOTV efforts even for a moment on the 14th, they might both be looking up at the next Official Opposition critic for Health and Wellness.

Roberts' campaign website
Roberts on Twitter

Len Skowronski, Alberta Social Credit Party

You can call the SoCreds a lot of things... but quitters, they ain't. I got my first glimpse of a Skowronski sign in this campaign on August 31st, on a patch of grass in a high school parking lot. Because those High School kids are VERY likely to vote Social Credit. :)

Skowronski is the leader of the Alberta Social Credit party, and has been since 2007. He has run provincially twice before - in 2004 in Calgary-Varsity, and in 2007 in Calgary-Bow. The campaign signs feature a modified Alberta license plate with the SoCred logo and the plate reading "R U Ready?" - a message that suggests the Social Credit revolution is upon us once again. In fairness, the party has made a lot of strides lately in terms of policy and party infrastructure - the problem they run into is with their brand. To most Albertans, Social Credit has gone the way of the T-Rex - a big deal at its peak, but a historical footnote these days.

The sad thing about Skowronski's candidacy is, he proposes a lot of good ideas, and common-sense democratic solutions to some of the issues facing Glenmore, and all of Alberta. His brand, though, has simply GOT to change. The same policies and ideas, presented by the "Moving Alberta Forward" party, would gain a whole new level of traction in the public consciousness.

Bottom Line: Good ideas, but lacklustre execution and a terrible branding issue leave the campaign fighting to avoid the embarassment of finishing dead last.

Skowronski campaign website (sort of...)

Calgary-Glenmore Candidates Forum
Thursday, September 10th
7:00 pm
Southwood Community Hall
11 Sackville Drive SW
Seating is limited, so arrive early.
Bring an open mind. Leave your campaign signs at home. The object is to discuss issues and let the undecided choose, not to chant, cat-call and intimidate better than "the other guys".