Saturday, April 30, 2011

#elxn41 Primer: The Results

Nation, I thought I'd save you all the time and trouble of staying up to watch the results on Monday's election - especially since Tweeting the results is against the law (but blogging them seems not to be...  odd...).

Everyone else seems already to have weighed in on how the results are going to work out, and so now it's time to get Savage with some numbers.

A disclaimer first, however: While I DO have the Tories winning the election, that does not necessarily equate to the Tories remaining in government. A lot of very smart people whom I have a tonne of respect for have opined that an emboldened opposition, led by Jack Layton, will very possibly defeat the government at the first opportunity (which I believe is the Throne Speech), and not even wait for a budget. Much hinges on what the wounded Liberals are going to be in the mood for as they decide how quickly they can get the millstone named Michael off from around their necks.

But, all of this is a blog post for Monday night.  TONIGHT, you want a prediction. And here it is.

ALBERTA: CPC 28 seats, all other 0

If you had asked me this yesterday, I'd have said Linda Duncan and Ray Martin had a good chance at holding and extending the NDP beach head in Alberta to 2 seats. But as I've thought more and more about this, I think the average Albertan voter, even in Edmonton, is likely pretty frightened (rightly or wrongly - I think rightly) about what an NDP-led government might mean for Alberta's economy. Those scared voters are coming out on Monday and voting Conservative, because 1 or 2 seats might make the difference when, at the start of the campaign, it was considered safe to toss Jack a couple of bones as a way of protesting against "Mean Stephen".

BRITISH COLUMBIA: CPC 21 seats, LPC 2 seats, NDP 13 seats, Green 0 seats

I think the British Columbian penchant for letting their more small-l liberal roots show will result in a net increase for the NDP here. The biggest news, and the only riding in BC that many will be watching, is Sannich-Gulf Islands. I just don't think Elizabeth May has the juice to beat Gary Lunn here. I expect she'll lose by at least 5,000 votes, and then the Greens are going to have to take a good, long look at themselves in the mirror about what to do next, and who should lead them.

SASKITOBA: CPC 22 seats, LPC 1 seat, NDP 5 seats, Green 0 seats

I expect Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, which the Conservatives won by 300 votes, will swing to the NDP. Ralph Goodale will hold onto Wascana for the Liberals by a slim margin - but make no mistake, those voters are voting for Ralph, not the Liberal brand.

ATLANTIC CANADA: CPC 6 seats, LPC 8 seats, NDP 18 seats, Green 0 seats

The NDP surge here hurts the Tories AND the Liberals. Peter MacKay hangs onto Central Nova, which puts him close to the California border (by his reckoning, anyhow). PEI remains a Liberal bastion.

THE NORTH: CPC 0 seats, LPC 1 seat, NDP 2 seats, Green 0 seats

Tory Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq is in for a fight with the NDP candidate, Jack Hicks. I expect Hicks to win based on lingering resentment over Aglukkaq's last campaign. Of course, when a riding is so vastly spread out as the 3 northern ridings, Get Out The Vote efforts are critically important, and the Conservatives have the edge there, so it WILL be close. No change in the Yukon - the incumbent Liberal Larry Bagnell is very popular.

QUEBEC: CPC 7 seats, LPC 6 seats, NDP 12 seats, BQ 50 seats, Green 0 seats

Much noise has been made about the NDP's surge in Quebec, and many Quebeckers who had previously voted for the CPC, the Liberals, and the Bloc are going to cast NDP ballots this time around. However, to my mind the lion's share of these new NDP supporters were previous supporters of the other federalist parties - the Tories and the Liberals. And the loss of those votes to the NDP is going to create space for the Bloc, despite running a relatively poor campaign, to take a handful of seats that they had been in close contention for in 2008.

ONTARIO: CPC 65 seats, LPC 17 seats, NDP 24 seats, Green 0 seats

This is going to be a catastrophe for the Liberal Party. Concerns about the economy will push voters to Harper, and concerns about social programs will push voters to Layton. NOTHING is pushing voters in Ontario into the waiting arms of Michael Ignatieff, and they're going to lose over half of their seats in Ontario as it serves as a microcosm of the Liberal Party's nationwide slide - in this election, anyhow - into "also-ran" status. A dozen of their 17 Ontario seats will be in the GTA.


Conservative Party of Canada: 149 seats (143 at dissolution)
New Democratic Party of Canada: 74 seats (36 at dissolution)
Bloc Quebecois: 50 seats (47 at dissolution)
Liberal Party of Canada: 35 seats (77 at dissolution)

So there. Those are the results. On paper, it's a Conservative minority. Go to bed early on Monday - you'll need your energy to get through a week of "evil Layton-led coalition" and "is Harvard hiring?" punditry and smarm.

#elxn41: You Don't Know Jack

Nation, it was only a matter of time.

As soon as I saw the polling numbers rising for the NDP, I knew it was only a matter of time before some deep, dark secret in Jack Layton's ancient past creeped into the light - coincidentally, I'm sure.

Of course, every party is going to claim that they would *never* stoop to such depths, and that the only tie they MIGHT have to such info is if it were revealed to Sun Media by one of their supporters without their prior knowledge...  a claim that I'm sure most Canadians will believe, as the parties have no reason to LIE about such things...

At least we have a list longer than one potential culprit... The Tories are trying to fight off the NDP in Ontario, the BQ is trying to fight them off in Quebec, and the Liberals are trying to fight them off in 308 ridings. So the "whodunit" game will at least be entertaining.

But the allegations are unsubstantiated crap.

That's right - I said it.

Now, let's be perfectly clear: I'm not a Jack Layton fan. And I'm about as likely to cast a ballot for my local NDP candidate on Monday as I am to sprout wings and fly around the polling station terrifying villagers. This is not a politically-motivated defence of Layton.

What it IS, is a REALITY-based defence of Layton.

Here's what happened:

Toronto Police, in 1996, entered a licensed massage parlour in Toronto's Chinatown looking for underage prostitution and sex acts. What they FOUND was city councillor John (Jack) Layton, in a second floor studio, naked and mellow with an attractive masseuse in the room.

The masseuse, whose mastery of English is suspect (based on the notes taken by police) became flustered during questioning.

Layton, when asked if he knew of sex acts being performed on the premises, responded "No, sir.". Asked if he himself had received any, he replied "No sir, I was just getting a shiatsu."

Which is EXACTLY how this would have gone if he were 100% innocent. Layton was never charged with anything - which, considering the political climate at the time and the fact that Toronto Police considered him anti-cop, is probably a pretty good sign that they had not a SHRED of evidence of any wrongdoing on his part.

And make no mistake: This same scene could be repeated anywhere, with anyone who receives a massage.

Case in point: I went for a therapeutic massage last week in Calgary (an excellent place - if you're looking in SE Calgary, email me for their details). If one of my blogging arch-nemeses (say, Alberta Tory or Alheli Picazo) were to have found out about my appointment and sent a tip in to cops, here's what they would have found when they burst into the massage studio:

"Enlightened Savage was lying on a table, covered by a towel. He later indicated he was told to get into "whatever state of undress he was most comfortable with". Client was partially covered in oil, and had been receiving services from an attractive (college-educated and licensed) massage therapist. When asked if he was receiving sexual services, Savage responded 'Are you flipping kidding me? Blue Cross would NEVER cover that! My lower back's killing me and I'm here for a massage!'. When asked if he was aware of sexual acts being performed on the premises, Savage responded 'Seriously? That kind of thing really happens?!? I thought Shane at CalgaryRants was bluffing... No. I was unaware. Now go bug someone else please.'"
SCANDAL! the blogs would scream the next day, outing me as some sort of deviant or misanthrope. "He doesn't respect women!" others would scream. The only problems with those assertions being a) nothing actually HAPPENED, and b) I've never requested a specific masseuse in my life, and just as frequently find a male therapist trying to work on my back and messed-up hip as I find a female one. It's luck of the draw. Male, female, attractive, not...  I don't care. I'm not there to look. I'm there for a massage. Do I hold my chiropractor to some sort of sexual or aesthetic standards? Hardly. (Sorry Dr. S, you're an awesome guy but I just don't feel that way about you!)

Look...  if you want to talk about why Layton's policies would be potentially devastating to the Albertan or Canadian economy, let's have that discussion. If you want to debate the qualifications of his candidates, that's fine. His readiness to lead? I'll talk about that all day.

But Jack Layton received a massage in 1996, and he was naked?

Come on.


No wonder people hate politics.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

#elxn41 Primer: Conservative Party

Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes...

Give or take, depending on orbital wobble, that's how many minutes are in one calendar year.  Criticisms about the amount of time Parliament sits (or doesn't) in a given year notwithstanding, it is worth mentioning that the Stephen Harper Government (TM) has been the longest-lived minority government in Canadian history.

Of course, our man Stephen isn't satisfied with being a trivia answer...  he wants to wield REAL power... he wants his majority. And it almost worked out that way... in fact, it still might.

Today's Special: Tory-ander Chickpea Salad

Stephen had it all planned out...  the Liberals under Ignatieff were stagnant in the polls. The Greens were a non-factor to voters who couldn't spell the word "patchouli". The Bloc was facing a backlash against separatist sentiment in Quebec. And the NDP was the NDP. It was the perfect storm... a passed budget would give Harper a mandate from Parliament to push his agenda forward for the year. A budget failure would trigger an election, and almost certainly an increase in seats for his Tories - maybe even into majority territory. Everything was going according to plan...

And then Jack happened.

This isn't to say that the surging NDP are going to form government - although, it's not outside the realm of possibilities. For that matter, the Tories could still capture a majority or minority government, as result of some of the idiosyncrasies of our first-past-the-post system. National polling numbers, while interesting, don't mean much to the people in Goose Bay or Wasa or Acme.

Where the Harper Tories made their first mistake was in assuming that because Ignatieff was stuck in the mud, they were in the clear. Their first major announcement - that tax relief was coming to families within the next 5 years - was akin to Wimpy's old line "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today". I effect, the Tories promised tax relief in 5 years in exchange for your vote on May 2nd - and probably at least one more time after that, as well.

They've stayed quiet on a lot of fronts, hoping for opposition stumbles. While this is usually sound strategy, especially when your opponents are as likely to stumble as the divided Liberal camp and the NDP, it results in next to no momentum - a decision which is coming home to roost in the final days of the campaign.

The Tories are rightly pointing out that Canada is the envy of the first world when it comes to our position emerging from the global economic downturn - our public finances are relatively strong, although a strong dollar relative to the U.S. greenback is hurting Canadian exports. Unemployment is much lower than many of our neighbours, and the stimulus spending that the Tories championed seems - on the surface, at least - to be having the desired results.

Likewise, opposition attacks against the Tories have been far too "inside" to resonate with average Canadian voters - arguments about contempt of Parliament or fighter jets or spending on prisons is fine when you're sitting around a poker table with your fellow policy wonks, but Henry and Martha don't generally care which politicians have been found in contempt of Parliament - truth be told, it's a pretty accurate description of how many Canadians feel about the institution, when they pay attention to the goings-on in Ottawa.

But despite the general satisfaction with the job the Tories have done, they haven't captured the imagination of the populace. "Things are pretty good - let's not change anything" is hardly the stirring motto that the Tory War Room was hoping for. And while the Liberals were the only opposition the Tories were facing, the reality is that the Conservatives were campaigning LESS badly than the Grits, so a majority was inching closer to closer to fruition.

Now, with the NDP making significant gains in British Columbia and Quebec - both provinces where the Tories were hoping to wrest seats from the Liberals - the results are somewhat less sure. Conservatives in ridings they consider "safe" are tending to avoid all-candidates' forums, to the chagrin of local voters.

A result of the conscious choice to run the Tory campaign under the radar? Surely.

A bad gamble? Not necessarily.

The voters will decide on May 2nd.

But if the unthinkable happens, and Jack Layton is measuring the Prime Minister's Office for drapes on May 3rd, expect a very significant number of Albertan Tories to take a good, long look about what steps they can take to protect their home province's energy reserves from the new federal government.

Bloc Albertois, anyone?

Conservative Party of Canada - Website
Conservative Policies
Find your local Conservative candidate

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

#elxn41 Primer: New Democratic Party

Banners and signs are waved as rock music plays in the packed hall. The beaming leader, flush with polling numbers that put him in a statistical tie for first place in La Belle Province, shakes hands and speaks of upcoming campaign stops in Atlantic Canada, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories - all places he expects to win seats.

And then, in a moment of clarity, the face of that leader reveals itself...

Oh. My. God.

Is that...?

Could it be...?

That's Jack Layton.

Today's Special: Dipped Nuts
The NDP has long served as the socialist conscience of Canada's parliament - it helped Pierre Trudeau's minority government form the state-owned Petro-Canada in the early 1970s, before helping to defeat that same government and force an election - in which their caucus was halved. Less than a decade later, they brought down the minority government of Joe Clark. In 1993, the party caucus was reduced by voters to 9 seats. And here we are in 2011, 8 years after Jack Layton was elected party leader, and the party sits with 37 seats in a 308-member House of Commons. An impressive recovery, but still a parliamentary afterthought, right?


The NDP's messaging has been consistent. Much like the Bloc in Quebec, the NDP has made it clear time and again that they would work with any party - ANY party - that would bring forward ideas that they believe would benefit Canadians. Of course, these ideas would have to be visible through the orange-tinted glasses of the NDP, but all the same, while political operatives decry this approach as "opportunism" and a willingness to "get into bed with whomever it takes to gain power", Canadian voters increasingly seem to recognize that sort of approach as "co-operation" - the same kind of thing we have to do every day, and the same kind of thing we teach our kids to do. As a result, recent polls show the NDP in a statistical tie with Canada's "natural ruling party", the Liberals, for 2nd place in popular support nation-wide.

The NDP campaign to this point has been focused on 2 main themes: Firstly, that Stephen Harper favours his business and oilpatch friends over ordinary Canadians, and secondly that Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals are absentee enablers of the Harper government's policies. The strategy seems to be working, as voters who in past elections have voted Liberal to "stop the Tories" have seemingly swung to Layton and the NDP, at the expense of Ignatieff's Liberals.

An Ipsos-Reid poll of the leadership attributes of the federal party leaders illustrated how Canadians have come to feel about Layton, the longest-serving leader of a federalist party in this election:

  •  Someone you can trust: Jack Layton (34%, 2nd place)
  •  Someone who will get things done: Jack Layton (27%, 2nd place)
  •  Someone who has what it takes to lead Canada: Jack Layton (26%, 2nd place)
  •  Someone who is best to manage during tough economic times: Jack Layton (22%, 2nd place)
  •  Someone who wants to be Prime Minister for the right reasons: Jack Layton (34%, 2nd place)
  •  Someone who has a vision of Canada that you can support: Jack Layton (30%, 2nd place)

In many of these instances, Layton is at least 10% ahead of Michael Ignatieff. This situation seems absolutely shocking, given the relatively small population of Canada that tends to lean far enough to the political left to be within the NDP wheelhouse. But Canadians are likely embracing Layton more than his party: Here's a guy who a year ago came out and revealed he's getting treatment for prostate cancer, and is on the hustings with a cane because of a recent hip fracture, yet for all the world he seems more energetic and engaged than any of his relatively healthy competitors. He speaks with passion, he's personable, charming, and was the first political leader to appear on the new (right-leaning) Sun News Network. He's got no fear and no quit in him, and people admire that, even if they'd normally be inclined to dismiss his policies or record.
Now, the Layton Love aside, the NDP policy book reads more or less exactly like you'd assume. Big business = bad. Labour = good. Working families. Kitchen tables. Doctors. Trees. Conservative boogymen. They include a costing document, which Michael Ignatieff has since described as "science fiction" - the Alberta oilpatch had better hope it stays that way, since there are almost $9 Billion in increased revenues to the government projected in the NDP plan from corporate tax hikes and what the Dippers are calling "an end to fossil fuel subsidies".  All in all, the NDP platform reads like instructions on how to completely devastate the Albertan economy - a fact that I'm sure makes the incumbent MP for Edmonton-Strathcona, Linda Duncan of the NDP, VERY excited.

But Jack Layton's not running for Premier of Alberta, and the politics of division works fine everywhere you're not targeting. Look at the NDP polling numbers in Quebec and BC, for example.

The notion of an NDP majority government is still a LONG ways off... but if Layton can propel his party into the second spot in a minority Parliament, then (depending on how the other parties fare) he might be one simple meeting away from a rainmaker spot propping up a Tory government...  or the Prime Minister's Office, if a formal coalition could be formed with the Liberals.

Prime Minister Jack Layton.

Don't say I didn't warn you. ;)

New Democratic Party of Canada - Website
NDP Policies
Find your local NDP candidate

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

#elxn41 Primer: Liberal Party

The Federal Liberal campaign has become about one man, and one man only: Michael Ignatieff. Or, as this pundit refers to him, "Canada's John Kerry".

Why Ignatieff has had so much trouble connecting with the Canadian public is going to be a subject that in coming years makes a lot of authors a lot of money. Is it that he seems too professorial? Does he come across as cold? Did Tory efforts to define him in the media leave a lasting impression?

At the end of the day, the Liberal Party of Canada - the party that is usually a sneeze away from power if not actually occupying 24 Sussex Drive (as they have for 78 of Canada's 144 years) - is polling neck-and-neck with the NDP for 2nd place, nationally. They've been relegated to also-rans in Quebec polls. And the fingers of blame are being pointed, rightly or wrongly, at Michael Ignatieff.

Today's Special: Runny Grits

The Liberals in 2008 were supposed to cruise to an easy victory. Stephen Harper's Conservatives had just broken the spirit of their fixed election dates law, if not the letter of it. The Liberals had just come out of a Winnipeg caucus retreat with a renewed sense of purpose. The Canadian public viewed the Conservatives as better equipped to handle the economy, but the Liberals as better prepared to deal with environmental issues. The Liberals, sensing the direction of the wind, prepared a major platform plank called "The Green Shift". Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, had essentially endorsed the Liberals as the best party to lead government. Danny Williams, the wildly popular Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, was spearheading an "Anything But Conservative" campaign.

The reality of the outcome proved quite different. A disastrous performance by freshly-minted leader Stephane Dion resulted in a net loss for the Liberals of 18 seats. While every major party saw reduced voter turn-out (with the notable exception of the Green Party), the Liberals lost nearly 850,000 votes versus their results in 2006. 6 days after the election, Dion announced his intention to resign as party leader. The resulting leadership convention saw the coronation of Michael Ignatieff as the new leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Fast forward to 2011, and we see a Liberal Party that, again, should be doing much better than they seem to. Whether it's the fault of the leader of of the people running the party machinery, the party isn't connecting with average Canadians. They're perceived as a party that would be bad news for the economic recovery, their early campaign focus on the Harper government being found in contempt of Parliament was "inside baseball" of the worst possible kind, and their criticisms of Harper seem to fall on deaf ears as "the same old stuff we've been hearing for years". And to top it off, much of the campaign has seen Canadians trying to determine if, in fact, Ignatieff would enter a coalition government with the NDP and Bloc or not - the answer went from "no" to "maybe" to "possibly, but our parliamentary rules allow it and can we call it something else?".

The Liberals have made Family a central plank in their platform, with the release of a 2 year, $8 Billion spending commitment for programs from Post-Secondary Education and Childcare to Home Renovations. The Liberals argue that, unlike the Conservative Party proposals, their policies can be instituted right away to help families, and not years down the road. Their plans are fully costed, and they claim they can pay for the programs without any increase to the GST or personal income tax rates - a claim that the Conservatives find laughable.

While the national campaign has been less than stellar, all is not lost for the Grits. On a local level, they have a lot of grizzled, veteran operatives who know how to win. They're targeting ridings they consider "winnable" - particularly those that don't have incumbent Tories running in them, that the Tories seem to be taking for granted, or with what they're calling "absentee candidates" (Tories who are not participating in candidates' forums). In the Calgary area, the Liberals have high hopes for Calgary-Centre North, vacated by Jim Prentice several months ago. It's not LIKELY to yield a good result for them, but how likely was Edmonton-Strathcona to elect Linda Duncan in 2008?
History shows us it's exceedingly difficult to fight a political war with legitimate threats on two fronts. We saw it with the old Progressive Conservatives, when Kim Campbell had to fend off Jean Chretien's Liberals on her left and Preston Manning's Reformers on her right. This is the unfamiliar situation the Liberals find themselves in today, attacking the Harper Tories on the right while trying to make the case that Jack Layton and the NDP shouldn't be considered a viable choice. Some polls show them running FOURTH in Quebec - a result that was unfathomable just 5 years ago.

A week is an eternity in Canadian politics - and it had better be. Because if the Grits are going to make a move here and have a shot at bringing Stephen Harper down at the ballot box instead of in the Governor General's sitting room - they've got a lot of work to do, and 6 days left to do it.

Liberal Party of Canada - Website
Liberal Policies
Find your local Liberal candidate

Monday, April 25, 2011

#elxn41 Primer: Green Party

Nation, this is the first is a series of posts that will go up daily leading to Election Day on May 2nd. I'll be profiling the 4 federalist parties and their campaigns thus far, in reverse order of their popular support according to the latest polls.

If it seems as though I'm a little down on ALL the parties and their performances in this campaign...  well, you're not imagining that.

The schedule will be as follows:
Monday, April 25th - Green Party
Tuesday, April 26th - Liberal Party
Wednesday, April 27th - New Democratic Party
Thursday, April 28th - Conservative Party

Today's special: Mixed Greens.

The Green Party finds itself in a VERY different position in 2011 than it did during the last General Election. In 2008, the party was riding as high as it had ever been, with a sitting Member of Parliament (not elected as a Green, but sitting as one nonetheless), a spot in the Leader's Debates as a result of that MP, and polling near the double-digits. There was even cautious optimism among party insiders that leader Elizabeth May might be able to unseat Conservative Party rock star Peter MacKay in Central Nova, where she had spent many years as a youth and where she decided to run.

Reality, though, hit the party like a tonne of bricks as the election results came in. While they had increased their voter numbers nationwide greater than any other party, and by over 41% versus their results in 2006, they still registered less than 7% of the national popular vote, and found themselves once again shut out of the House of Commons.  May herself scored a personal victory, capturing 32% of the vote in Central Nova (where the Liberals had declined to run a candidate against her) however she still lost the race to the entrenched MacKay by over 5,600 votes.

Fast forward to 2011, now, and let's take a look at the growth of the Greens. Whereas they scored 6.8% of the popular vote in 2008, now in 2011 they sit at... 6%. Elizabeth May - still Green Party leader after a controversial constitutional change within the party - is running in a Vancouver Island riding, where her party polls the highest, giving them their best chance yet at winning a seat in the House of Commons. May was shut out of the Leader's Debates on account of her party's lack of a sitting Member of Parliament (a decision which disappointed many, this blogger included).

While it's hardly surprising that the Green Party got their largest share of the popular vote in British Columbia in 2008, it's borderline shocking that their second strongest province, by the same measure, was Alberta.  That's right - Alberta. Home of those awful "tar-sands", and rednecks who only care about green issues when the green being discussed is the ink on the $20 bill. Home of greedy corporations who plunder Mother Nature. THAT Alberta.

Well, the Greens are working to correct the issue this time, coming out strongly in favour of corporate tax hikes and a carbon tax. Which should do them WONDERS with their popular support in Alberta. "Thanks for the votes in 2008. p.s., get bent."

The Green Party policy book has a lot of very good "what"'s - that is to say, "Here's how life should be, and would be under a Green government". What it lacks is "how"'s - How do we actually achieve the goals as outlined?
The knock against the Greens has long been that they're a group of environmental activists, trying to run a political party against parties that are run by - wait for it - politicians. Candidates are often (but not always) exactly what you'd expect: Bright-eyed students, or bleary-eyed former hippies (the candidate in Calgary-Southwest, running against Stephen Harper, is trumpeted on the Green website as "an active member of the Calgary 420 Cannabis Community"). They increased their profile, though not necessarily their legitimacy in the public eye, with the July 2010 appointment of recently retired NHL enforcer Georges Laraque to the position of Male Deputy Leader.

The party has grown steadily in membership and support since Elizabeth May's first election as leader in 2006 - however, patience is reportedly wearing thin among Green Party donors and supporters. Many eyes on election night will be on May's suburban Victoria riding, where she's taking on notable Tory Gary Lunn. It will be a chance for May to prove that her party made the right decision in extending her term as leader. Possibly... the last chance.

Green Party of Canada - Website
Green Policies
Find your local Green candidate

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Leadership Race That Wasn't: Alberta's Progressive Conservatives

Nation, while the Federal election has been garnering the lion's share of the attention in these parts, you could be forgiven for not realizing that there are, in fact, 3 leadership races going on on the provincial political scene in Alberta.

Or, rather, 2 leadership races going on.

The Alberta Liberals are in the process of selecting a leader to replace the outgoing Dr. David Swann, whom despite his inherent decency and palpable intelligence, never caught on with the electorate. Swann will go down in history as one of the few duly elected Leaders of the Official Opposition to never actually contest a General Election as a party leader.

The Alberta Party, likewise, is in the throes of a leadership contest, as they choose a leader to helm their fledgling party through the uncertain waters of the next General Election in Alberta, which has been predicted as taking place any time after March of 2012.

Arguably, though, the highest-profile leadership race is the one that isn't going on - at least, not officially.  The Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta, better known as the PC Party of Alberta, is the party that currently forms government in this province. Their leader, Premier Ed Stelmach, announced to much surprise in late January that he will not be seeking re-election and that he would be stepping aside as party leader once a replacement was chosen.

HOWEVER, the party won't be choosing a replacement until Ed hands a letter to the PC Association President formally informing him of his intention to resign as leader. Which won't be happening until after the spring sitting of the Legislative Assembly - after all, "the people's work" still needs doing. So...  while they don't yet know who will be leading them into the next election, the PC's still have a leader today - Ed Stelmach.

This point was reiterated in an email that was recently sent to PC Party members by the party's president, Bill Smith, when he pointed out that the party DID, in fact, have a leader, and that leader's name was Ed Stelmach. And that there was no leadership race taking place at this time. Which is technically true - and may, in fact, be having a direct impact on how much (or, more accurately, how little) public campaigning for the job we're seeing from sitting MLA's like Ted Morton, Alison Redford, Doug Griffiths and Doug Horner.

Of course, this isn't stopping Klein-era cabinet minister Gary Mar from campaigning, after having given up his job promoting Alberta to the power brokers in Washington, DC in order to come home and run for the job. And neither is it stopping speculation on the street, in the coffee shops and on the internet about who ELSE may be running for the leadership, when the party actually declares the race open (to clear up any rumours: I am 95% sure I will NOT, in fact, be running for the leadership).

This blog, of course, was born during the *last* PC leadership race, in which Ed Stelmach ascended to replace Ralph Klein with a second-ballot victory over runner-up Jim Dinning. As I did then, I shall endeavour to provide full and unbiased coverage of the candidates, their platforms, ideas, and campaigns. I have gone on the record stating that any candidate who wishes to author an article for this blog or who would submit to an interview would be provided this forum to get their message out, and (as always) I will not be endorsing anyone in this space - I imagine I'll develop a favourite, and will vote for that person, but this author respects his readers enough to let them make up their own minds.

In that vein, despite the fact that there is no PC leadership race as of this very moment, I've included below a handy list of links to information on the people who have stepped forward and declared their intentions to seek the PC leadership, when it becomes available:

In alphabetical order by surname, they are:

Doug Griffiths
Doug Horner
Gary Mar
Ted Morton
Alison Redford

I will also be covering the Alberta Party and Alberta Liberal leadership races as they develop. The open invitation for interviews or guest articles applies to candidates in those races as well.

It's an exciting time to be a political watcher in Alberta - and really, how long has it been since anyone could honestly say THAT?

- E.S.