Wednesday, September 14, 2011

PC Leadership Candidate Profile - Ted Morton




If you look into a mirror and say it 3 times, so the legend goes, you're in for a VERY bad night.

So it goes, too, with "Wildrose Party" - at least, if you subscribe to Ted Morton's view of provincial politics.

Long a darling of the "deep blue" conservatives in this province - first as one of the brains behind the Reform Party, and later as a senator-elect and PC Leadership candidate in 2006 (finishing 3rd behind Jim Dinning and Ed Stelmach), Ted Morton is a giant among conservative thinkers. Born in Los Angeles in 1949, Morton chose at the age of 32 to move to Canada, and 10 years later became a Canadian citizen. His detractors suggest he is therefore somehow "less Canadian than the rest of us", but that's purely tripe. He earned his doctorate in political science, and then went to work in the trenches with the nascent Reform Party, believing in its message of lower taxes, traditional values, fiscal responsibility and democratic reform.

During his 2006 run for the PC Leadership, Morton was roasted by the media (this blogger included) for his decidedly right-of-centre slant. Morton finished third in that race, and since then Alberta has seen the rise of the Wildrose Party (nee Wildrose Alliance), espousing many of the same values and policies that Morton brought to the table in 2006. Those ideas have clearly found an audience, although to what degree the Wildrose was a protest against Ed Stelmach and his policies rather than the natural evolution of political thought in Alberta and the "new normal", remains for history to decide. Ted, though, has his own theory - warning us that the only way to bring the Wildrose supporters "back to the mothership" is to send them a sign, through his ascendancy to the PC throne, that right-of-centre ideas are welcome in today's PC Party. He goes on to warn that vote-splitting of the right-of-centre vote between the PC Party and the Wildrose would make it possible for the Alberta Liberals, New Democrats and possibly even the Alberta Party to take advantage and wrestle away seats - or even control of government, as was seen when the federal political scene featured both the PC Party and the Reform Party, and Jean Chretien's Liberals reaped the benefits.

For their part, I haven't spoken to many Wildrose supporters who have indicated a Morton victory means they'll tear up their Wildrose card and come back to the PCs. But they MAY just be playing coy.


Morton has mostly stayed away from the traditional "social conservative" policies that earned him so much scorn in 2006, instead calculating that most Albertans agree with him on fiscal policy and the need for reform. His policies, therefore, have a decidedly mathematical and "common sensical" (it's a word NOW) slant to them. For example:

• Return Alberta to balanced budgets by restraining spending, not by making deep service cuts or tax hikes.
• Limit the annual growth of government spending to no more than population plus inflation—ensuring that the public sector grows no faster than the private sector.
• Ensure the Alberta Advantage by not raising income taxes or introducing a PST. And a Morton government will legislate that no future government can increase income taxes without Albertans’ approval by referendum.
• Protect Albertans from short-term fluctuations in government revenues by rebuilding the Sustainability Fund.
• Protect Alberta’s future by rebuilding the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund
• Work more closely with Ottawa under the Federal Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications to expedite entry of foreign-trained professionals into the Alberta work force.
• Negotiate an immigration agreement with the federal government to move decision-making on immigration to Alberta, similar to Quebec’s current agreement.
• Immediately put a stake in the heart of Bill 50.
• Support the development of new urban conservation areas and parks and a new dedicated fund to help pay for these parks. This fund would also be used to protect environmentally valuable lands (such as the conservation easements on OH Ranch) and to build new recreational infrastructure (such as campgrounds and trails)
• Amend the current Leadership Selection Process by adopting a cut-off date for the sale of memberships before balloting begins. The current system allows people to purchase memberships on the last day of voting – minutes before they cast their ballots. Many of these “two minute Tories” tear up their newly purchased membership cards as soon as they exit the voting booth.
• Provide the opportunity for PCAA members to purchase multi-year memberships.
• Continue with the implementation of Alberta Netcare (Alberta’s electronic health records system) and will replace the current paper Alberta Personal Health Cards with secure Smart cards for Albertans.
• Re-institute the practice of sending yearly statements to each person using Alberta health services so Albertans know the costs of their personal health care.
• Ensure that all existing property rights of landowners and leaseholders are respected—including all existing rights to compensation, plus the new right to compensation for loss of value caused by any new environmental restrictions on current use.
• The Alberta Tuition Tax Credit Program will provide a refund of tuition paid by Alberta students if they complete their program of study and then remain in Alberta and work for the next seven years. The tuition will be paid back in the form of non-refundable tax-credits and capped at a maximum value of $20,000.
• I will establish a transparent, independent review of MLA compensation and roll back the 2008 Cabinet and MLA pay increases until I receive the recommendations of the review.
• I will introduce fixed election dates, removing the power of the Premier to arbitrarily choose when Albertans go to the polls.
• I will introduce term limits for Premiers – no more than two full four-year terms and a maximum of 10 years total. This would ensure the province continues to move forward with vigorous leadership and fresh vision.
• I will reduce the size of Cabinet from the 24 that we have now to 17
• Reclaim Alberta’s position as the leading voice for Senate reform by holding new Senate elections in conjunction with Alberta’s provincial elections.

The Long & Short Of It:

July 28th will go down as the day that the Morton campaign hit its biggest snag. There have been hard days since - the Frederick Lee/document shredding "scandal" springs to mind - but on July 28th, the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald ran stories about a poll that showed the PC Party at 54% public support, and the Wildrose at 16%. In effect, Ted's "We need the Wildrosers to come back" argument had suffered a devastating blow. And yet, the mantra has stayed the same... at every function, on every doorstep, in every speech, Ted continues his insistence that the party members, donors and Albertan voters who have spurned the PCs for the Wildrose are going to cost the party - and perhaps the province - dearly when the votes are counted. Is he right? Well... he's got his doctorate in political science, so chances are good that he knows a little bit about which he speaks. Ultimately, however, it's another Journal/Herald poll that, ironically, might get Ted onto the second ballot. A poll released yesterday shows Morton in 4th place, trailing Doug Horner by just 1 point. As Morton learned ALL too well in 2006, the first ballot battle isn't to win outright, it's to finish in the top 3 and buy yourself 2 more weeks to sell memberships and mobilize your voters. Bet the farm that Morton's people went to Costco and bought several pallets of Red Bull yesterday, because they (and the 10 MLA's endorsing Morton) are going to pull out all the stops to get him that extra 2 points he needs to make the second ballot.

Will the provincial government look radically different under Ted Morton? Absolutely. For the better? Some would say so. But the critical question for a lot of party members as they consider their options on Saturday remains exactly the same as in 2006: If Ted Morton is given a mandate to lead this party, and if the Wildrose defectors DO come back to the mothership, will it still be the PROGRESSIVE Conservative Association of Alberta?

And, more to the point: Will Albertans WANT it to be?


Ted Morton campaign website

Calgary Herald profile and video for Ted Morton






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