On the one hand, it seems to all the world as though the 6 candidates for PC Leader are just floating placidly on the pond of public consciousness, not making any waves and waiting to drift into the sun.
As anyone who knows ducks (or political campaigns, for that matter) would tell you, however, there's some absolutely FURIOUS paddling going on underneath the surface of that pond.
Here's what you may have missed this week, in the race to crown Alberta's next Premier...
Klein endorses Mar, Getty endorses Horner
Neither former Premier mentioned particular policies in their endorsements, instead making them endorsements of the men themselves. The Klein endorsement will likely carry more weight than that of Don Getty, however the actual real value of endorsements is very much open for debate. I have a lot of friends holding PC memberships. I have yet to hear one say "I didn't have any idea for whom I was going to vote, but if Gary's good enough for Ralph, he's good enough for me".
The Dangers of Twitter
Rick Orman got into a bit of a tough situation this week on Twitter, when he started trading shots with fellow PC Leadership candidate and Twitter Ninja Doug Griffiths over what he imagined (emphasis intended) was Griffiths' advocacy for a provincial sales tax. The exchange can be found here, courtesy of Stuart A. Thomson transcription services. What's touched on is the simultaneous exchange that was going on between the 2 and Walter Schwabe of Fused Logic, who had offered space for both men to debate on live-to-the-web streaming video. Orman refused repeated efforts by Schwabe to confirm if he would be willing to take part in the debate, leaving Griffiths without a dance partner and leaving Schwabe a little hot under the collar. In light of Orman's clearly expressed belief that leadership forums and debates are a waste of time in a race where memberships sold - not policy, or popularity, or public events - will be the biggest determining factor of success - his reluctance to "waste his time" debating another candidate on internet video makes sense. My response would be that getting televised on the web is better than getting televised NOWHERE, but Rick disagrees, as is his right. I'd just remind him, though, that Twitter isn't about broadcasting, it's about conversation. When you ignore the people who are trying to converse with you, you alienate them. And when they run web media companies... well, remember the old adage: "Never get into a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel". Electrons are the new ink.
The Dangers of Twitter, continued...
Rick just had a bad night. He really did. At one point during the evening's Twestivities, the Orman/Griffiths repartee was interrupted by this tweet, from Alberta Party President Chris LaBossiere:
@Rick_Orman I would love to hear a couple examples of "innovation in the tax system" that would help us balance our budget. Help me out.Now, at this point as a PC Leadership contender, your spidey-senses have to be kicking in. "Innovation in the tax system" certainly sounds like one of those political euphemisms designed to say something without actually saying it - like "increasing revenues" means "hiking taxes". And Orman said as much in response:
@ChrisLaBossiere not a language I understand. "innovation in tax system". What is that code for?
The problem, which Labossiere made clear in his next, incredulous tweet, was self-evident:
@Rick_Orman Umm... it wasn't a trick question. This is YOUR wording from your website.
And indeed, that's exactly where it IS from. LaBossiere didn't pluck the wording out of thin air; he was quoting Orman's website, and asking for clarification. Orman has not, to my knowledge, explained why he thought a term from his own website, under the heading "Rick's Commitments", was unfamiliar to him. It certainly couldn't be that the candidate didn't know what was on his own website - that'd be unfathomable.
Mar comes out in favour of private healthcare
The only thing shocking about this position, long-held as Daveberta outlines on his blog, is that Gary felt the need to go there. It could be that his internal polling is giving him some ugly numbers - in fact, that's the only reason I see for the perceived front-runner to voluntarily wade into the private health care debate. Rest assured, this position is going to get Gary some headlines for the next while - but are they really the sort of headlines that he needed? Or is this a case of "there's no such thing as bad press"?
Senate Elections on the near horizon
All 6 leadership candidates have come out in favour of holding Senate elections by 2012, in anticipation of filling upcoming vacancies in Alberta's representation in the Upper House. Candidate Doug Horner, however, wants the Alberta senate elections held in conjunction with simultaneous senate elections in BC and Saskatchewan, turning senate elections - and duly elected senators - from an Alberta-exclusive phenomenon into a regional one and putting senate reform back on the federal map in a big way.
"Read My Lips..."
5 of the 6 PC Leadership candidates have pledged they will consider no increases in taxes, no new taxes and no changes to the energy royalty structure. The black sheep, Doug Griffiths is leaving everything on the table, citing the gap between the $12 Billion we collect in income and business taxes versus the $39 Billion we spend each year. "We don't pay for the services we get. We rely on royalties and then we wonder why we ride this rollercoaster?... Maybe we should review the tax system and pay for what we get. That's all I'm saying. That's why it's part of that whole big fiscal discussion we need to have." Griffiths said to the Calgary Herald. If that chorus sounds familiar, it's because it's a call for a discussion that was also made this past May by none other than Saint Peter, Peter Lougheed, when he suggested the new PC Leader would have to take a good close look at the tax base to determine how to fund programs and infrastructure for the long-term, preparing for the day that the Golden Goose (the energy sector) stops laying eggs (my words, not his). If, in light of this, 5 of the 6 candidates are pledging no new taxes and no increases, it would seem that Griffiths was the only leadership candidate listening when Lougheed was speaking.
The next PC Leadership Forum takes place this Thursday at 7 pm, in Medicine Hat. The event will be live-streamed via the web through the PC Party website. I'll be watching from the friendly confines of Enlightened Savage World Headquarters. Since the winner of this contest will become the Premier of Alberta, I'd urge you to watch, as well. They're YOUR tax dollars, after all - no matter WHICH party you're inclined to support.