Thursday, December 17, 2009

By the Numb3rs

Pack a lunch, Nation. I'm making up for lost time today.

We all know that while I may sit at the head of the table, I am far from the biggest math geek in the entire ES Nation.

What I want to do today, though, is take a look at the significance of a lot of the numbers that I've seen thrown around since my return from the Savage Honeymoon.


The percentage correct that Mastermaq was when he pointed out recently that the "Ask Premier Ed" initiative was not, in fact, use of Social Media.

Social Media is something that Ed Stelmach should be absolutely brilliant at - because he's a nice man. The more people get to know him, the more they like him. But Q&A sessions are not real social interaction, any more than the Legislature Question Period as it stands is "real debate". Putting them online, or using YouTube, doesn't make them Social Media.

Tom Olson, in the linked story above, is reported to have likened the video responses to having coffee with Ed in a coffee shop. Which is a completely idiotic statement. Chatting over a cup of joe is intimate and completely interactive. Question-answer-rebuttal-point of clarification-segue-next question... If I had coffee with Ed in a coffee shop, and asked his handlers a series of questions, and they picked one that they liked, and passed it on to him, and he responded, and then walked out to go to the next coffee shop to answer the next hand-picked question, I'd think "that guy's a jerk, and this was a waste of my time".

Ed's not a jerk. And the "Ask Premier Ed" idea isn't a complete waste of time - but it needs to be fixed, like so much else in the Premier's communications office. I'm available.


The number of Albertans, from all walks of life and all traditional political stripes, who met in Red Deer for the Reboot Alberta session.

This is an event that I desperately wanted to attend, but was unfortunately unable to do so. The results of this meeting and the plans that sprang forth from it, though, will not be measured in months or in years, but in generations. The 4 approaches to changing our political reality in this province that were explored were a) a new party, beholden not to left-right dogma but to a vision for tomorrow's Alberta; b) creating new movements for change outside of the party system; c) working through existing initiatives for social change, and d) reinvigorating the existing system, including existing parties. I've made no bones about my intention to try and help drag the PC Party kicking and screaming into the world of 2010 and that big bump in the bell curve where most people find themselves politically, so while my own efforts lean more towards option d), each approach is a critical, and possibly successful, approach to explore and engage in.


In terms of support from within your own party, 77% is a good result for Premier Ed Stelmach. 77% from the public-at-large would be the kind of polling number that makes seasoned politicians dance a highland reel.

I've got to admit, the level of support for the Premier at the Progressive Conservative AGM caught me by surprise. Having gone 2 weeks without checking my email, I thought at first I was reading the news wrong. Now, I know and you know that while SOME of the delegates in attendance were voting in support of the Premier, some others were simply voting to avoid a messy leadership race. The proportions of those groups will forever be a mystery. However, the bottom line is that after the votes were cast and counted, Premier Ed had the support of 77% of his party's delegates.

Story over, right?

Oh, so, SO wrong.

We'll talk more about some of the numbers that have come out recently when we get to that end of the scale. Suffice it to say, though, that the worm in this particular story has turned - I only mention that in case some of you have been living under the rock next to the one I've been under for the past few weeks.


40 is not just the number that pollsters throw out as the level of popular support required to consider a majority government for a party - it's also the number that recent polls have put Wildrose Alliance support at, provincially.

As with the 77% discussion above, we know for a fact that some of the 40% support that the WAP is showing is made up of people who just want to put the fear of god into the PC's, but would never dream of actually marking an "x" next to their local WAP candidate come election time. For all we know, that describes half of the WAP respondents. For all we know, it describes 1% of them, and the WAP really IS on the cusp of governance.

HERE'S where it gets tricky, though... the media coverage of the poll results usually included a line such as "40% of Albertans would vote for their local WAP candidate were the election to be held tomorrow". There are 2 problems with that scenario: Firstly, there won't be an election tomorrow. Secondly, there aren't 87 WAP candidates ready to go. There aren't 87 PC candidates ready to go, for that matter. And let's not forget that, come election time, candidates MATTER. Especially BAD ones.

The majority of the current support for the Wildrose Alliance, in my opinion, stems from one of 2 things: Either dissatisfaction with the Progressive Conservatives and Premier Stelmach, or an embracing of freshly-minted WAP leader Danielle Smith - not necessarily the party or its policies. Danielle is smart, savvy, and doesn't tread into dangerous ground, socially - the perfect approach for her at this point.

As any established party leader can tell you, though, once you have 87, or 300+, people with your party name after theirs at the bottom of the television screen, all bets are off. There are radicals and mouth-breathers in every party - but how you handle them when they're candidates, ostensibly speaking FOR your party, is another. If the WAP attracts 85 more Danielle Smiths to be candidates, the PC's are done like dinner. If the WAP polling numbers, though, convince the party's fringe elements to come out from under the porch and bask in the sunlight of mainstream attention, convinced that they're being embraced (it's not you, it's Danielle) - they're in some trouble.


The percent of a chance, in my opinion, that the much-rumoured cabinet shuffle is going to involve more than 2 of the "top 5" ministries (Treasury Board, Education, Finance, Health and Energy) changing hands. You just can't blow up the administration of too many of those big departments a month before budget time - can you? Can you switch the Minister of Finance 4 weeks before a budget's release?


The number of cabinet ministers I expect to see in the Alberta Legislature come January 11th. Currently, the cabinet numbers 23, plus the Premier. Given the economic and political climate, I fully expect that the Premier will likely trim the cabinet at the same time he's shuffling it, by combining some ministries in a cost-cutting move (fewer ministers to pay, combination of resources, etc.). The smart money is on ministries at the bottom of the food chain being combined with those higher up (e.g. Housing and Urban Affairs with Municipal Affairs, Infrastructure with Transportation, Tourism Parks and Recreation into Culture & Community Spirit (Tourism) and Environment or Service Alberta (Parks and Rec.).


The number of months that Shane over at CalgaryRants has been smoke-free. Congratulations, to the soon-to-be-Daddy and 2009 Canadian Blog Awards nominee.


The number of years, as of November 15th, that I've been plugging away in this little corner of the blogosphere. It's been a blast, and I don't plan on going anywhere anytime soon. Through this blog, I've been able to meet some fantastic civic-minded people. I've also been privileged enough to have been asked to help with in-studio analysis of the 2007 municipal election on CBC Radio One, talk snow removal on CHQR AM770, and do a quick recap on election night 2008 for the Alberta General Election for CityTV. I'm no Naheed Nenshi - but, "baby steps". ;)

For those of you inclined to send me an anniversary gift, the third anniversary gift is "leather".


The number of people by which guest blogger and FOES Kirk Schmidt's family grew while I was away. Congratulations to the Captain, and to Yeoman Robyn, on the arrival of their little bundle of joy. ;)

Too many

The number of people rumoured to be considering a run at the Calgary Mayor's chair in October 2010.

Dave Bronconnier, you'll notice, has suddenly started talking a lot of sense. He does this every 3 years, when the clock starts to wind down towards the next municipal election.

The logic is quite simple, really: From the time of your election until the 2nd anniversary mark, you can speak and act on behalf of the people who put you there (by which, of course, I mean developers and other donors - you thought I meant VOTERS?). For the last year, though, you have to judge which direction the wind is blowing, and then stand up and declare that you're on the side of the working man. Works just about every time.

Bronconnier being ridiculously well-funded (and now suddenly favouring finance reform) and a smooth political operator, then, the one thing he wants more than anything else is a crowded ballot. With Mayor Dave on stage with 8 or 10 contenders, they'll all be so focused on trying to differentiate themselves from each other that they'll lose focus on what is one of the most difficult tasks in all of politics: Defeating a well-funded and entrenched, smart incumbent.

So, to Ric, Diane, Joe, Alnoor, and anyone else thinking of taking a shot at the Big Chair: Get together over some beers, figure out who it's going to be, and ANNOUNCE your candidacy, already. If you ALL run, you'll all lose, and we'll all be worse off for it. I guarantee it.


kenchapman said...

Block off you calender ES. The last weekend in Feb 2010 will see Reboot Alberta 2.0 likely in your beloved K-Country. All four streams that make up the movement known as Reboot Alberta will be featured. There will be many more people this time. We are making room for about 300 + this time. You will have to be there and bring some of your progressive minded fellow travellers. This is about changing political culture - necesascry but not easy - as you know.

Kirk Schmidt said...

Thanks for the 'gratz. I can't believe I've been a father for 6 weeks now... wow

Calgary Rants said...

Thanks Joey! Six more months...should be easy. As long as my party doesnt keep driving me into fits of fury!


Brian Dell said...

Good local candidates could add to that 39 percent. Bad ones could subtract. Assuming that Wildrose will run worse candidates than the other parties strikes me as just that, an assumption. Who will contend for PC nominations if they are running 3rd in polls?

Enlightened Savage said...

Brian: I don't think at this point ANY of us knows who's going to be running for each party.

As I said, if the WAP runs 86 Danielles (and a Paul Hinman), then the PC's are cooked.

Only time - and candidate vetting and nomination races - will tell.

I do know THIS, though - I'm seeing a lot fewer people showing interest in what they think will be open PC ridings (due to retirements) lately.

The "guaranteed win, no effort required" types are slinking away - which is better for everyone.

Anonymous said...

The only reboot we need is to the Wildrose Alliance. Under our new government there will be no provincial parks like "k country" as part of Danielle's property rights initiative.