Friday, September 30, 2011

The 13th Premier of Alberta

Nation, in the middle of all the hubbub and fanfare and spin that is going on as PC Party members head to their local polling stations to elect a new leader of their private club and, by extension and parliamentary precedent, a new Premier of Alberta, I want to take a moment to thank Premier Edward Michael Stelmach for his years of service to his community, his province and its people.

I'm not going to write a biography of the man. I'm not going to eulogize him - he's beginning a well-earned retirement, not dying.

But I *am* going to extend my sincere thanks.

Since 1986, Ed Stelmach has woken up every morning to serve others. To reprise a phrase that will force a smile onto the face of anyone who was at the PC AGM in Calgary last year, "it's what gets him up in the morning". For 25 years - a quarter of a century - Ed has committed his time and energy to making things better for other people.

He wasn't volunteering all those hours. He was being paid to do a job - first as a member and later reeve of the County of Lamont's council, and then as an MLA, cabinet member and later Premier. I'm not nominating him for sainthood. The job of a politician, though, is demanding no matter WHAT the pay scale. I've heard it suggested, by sitting officials, that the rate of divorce among elected politicians is near 75%. The job that Ed was doing is hard on ANY family - and he would be the first to tell you that. This is why, more than any other politician in recent Alberta memory, when the PC's celebrate an accomplishment or milestone in Ed Stelmach's career, they always - at Ed's insistence - put Marie on that same pedestal. Ed and Marie are a package deal. His wins are THEIR wins. His losses are shared as well. That's what love is. And his devotion to his wife, his children, and to his grandchildren, are the stuff of legend.

Ed is one of the nicest people I've ever met. Not just in politics - anywhere. He's just a decent and down-to-earth guy. Funny, in a self-deprecating way. Quick with a joke or a witty retort. This is the man Ed Stelmach is, behind closed doors where he's out of the spotlight. They say that "character is the person you are when nobody is looking". If that's the case, then Ed Stelmach has a stellar character. It was long a source of frustration for the party hacks who get paid to worry about such things that Ed, despite his personal charm, came across on television or in the glare of the media spotlight as awkward. "If only THEY could see the man WE see..." went the refrain. But even when the editorial press decided that Ed wasn't "their guy", even when the poll results showed that Albertans were thinking the same thing, even when those within his own party were working to show Ed the door, he remained the same: A good, decent, down-to-earth man. A man with the kind of character we all wish more politicians had.

When he was first elected as an MLA at age 42, Stelmach was an unrepentant fiscal hawk. He even refused a government vehicle, as he didn't feel the expense would be justifiable. A member of the so-called "Deep Six", Ed advocated for deep cuts of wasteful spending under Premier Ralph Klein. Ed held a special place in his heart for fiscally conservative rookies for the rest of his career, as evidenced by the special attention given to MLA's like Jonathan Denis and Rob Anderson (before he crossed the floor after not being advanced into cabinet) during their first term.

Ed Stelmach was an able cabinet minister, in 3 portfolios. He wasn't flashy, but (hard as it may be to believe) "flashy" was never really Ed's style. "Flashy" doesn't get the cows into the barn. He got legislation passed. While he was Minister of Infrastructure, he made sure things were getting built, on-time and under budget. But "flashy" never came into the picture. When he decided to step up and run for the PC Leadership after Ralph announced he was stepping aside, being the first Klein cabinet minister to do so, a lot of people in Alberta responded "Ed who?".

The PC Leadership Election system works in 3 stages. It is designed in a way that the eventual winner will absolutely, positively HAVE to have over 50% of voting party members mark their ballot in favour of that eventual winner. On the first ballot, voters simply choose their preferred candidate. The ballots are then counted. If any candidate receives more than 50% of the votes, they are the leader. If not, then the top 3 finishers have some more time to keep campaigning, and another vote is held with only those 3 on the ballot. This time, members can indicate their first and second choices from among the 3-person field. If any candidate received more than 50% of the first-choice votes, they are the leader. If NOT, then the 3rd-place finisher from the 2nd ballot is dropped, and their ballots are redistributed among the remaining 2 candidates according to the stated 2nd choice of the voters (if a second choice is indicated).

In the race to replace Ralph Klein, Ed Stelmach finished 3rd on the first ballot, with just under 15,000 votes. 5 other candidates were dropped off the ballot. One week later, the second ballot was held, and Stelmach increased his vote total to 51,764. He WON the second ballot (are you paying attention, lazy media-types? He WON the second ballot - FIRST PLACE), with Dinning finishing second and Morton third. None of the candidates had the required 50%, however, so Morton's voters were redistributed among Dinning and Stelmach, with Ed picking up 25,000 Morton voters to Dinning's 4,000.  Stelmach, already ahead of Dinning before the Morton votes were even redistributed, was the new Premier of Alberta.

During the leadership, one of Ed's big promises was that he would take a look at the Royalty Rates that energy companies paid to the Government for the resources they took, developed, and sold - resources that belong to the people of Alberta. Despite the expectation by many Albertans that he was, like many politicians, especially full of hot air when running for office, Stelmach actually struck a Royalty Review Panel to take a look at whether or not Albertans were getting their fair share. The panel came back with a report recommending significant increases in the royalty rates. Ed DID raise some of the rates, but nowhere near the levels or to the degree recommended by the report. One of the report's authors is now involved, ironically, with the Wildrose Party - much to their energy company donors' delights, I'm sure.

Nation, you know the rest of this story. The global economic slowdown hits. The oilsands grind to a relative halt. Stelmach's "draconian royalty rates" - lower, mind you, than those suggested by the panel - are blamed for the slowdown of energy production. Corrections and tweaks are made to the formula in an effort to strike the right balance, but they only frustrate the energy companies, who are desperate for cost-certainty. Many companies go elsewhere, like Saskatchewan, where labour is cheaper than the super-heated northern Alberta labour market. The Wildrose Alliance surges in popularity, as they trumpet slogans like "Bring Back the Alberta Advantage!" and "Send Ed a Message!". Stelmach's Deputy Premier steps aside to take an appointment as a judge, and his PC-safe Calgary riding elects Paul Hinman of the Wildrose. Alberta dips into its savings to cover program costs. The knives start to come out inside of the PC Party.

On January 25th of 2011, Ed Stelmach shocked the Alberta political world by announcing that he was going to step aside at the end of the Legislature's business that year. Many of his commitments hadn't been fully realized. Many things he would have liked to have done, remained undone. But the grind, the battle, the never-ending struggle against forces outside of his control, against political opponents both outside of his party and inside of it, had taken their toll. He was going home to Marie.

When the history books eulogize Ed Stelmach, I don't know what they're going to say. I don't know whether they'll say he was a careful planner, or a ditherer. I don't know whether they'll say he was a steady hand in rough seas, or whether he was the reason the seas were rough in the first place. History is written by the victors.

What I *do* know, is Ed Stelmach is a good man, and has been a dedicated public servant for a quarter of a century.

When his time comes - as it comes for all of us - and Ed is called to his Final Home, politicians and Albertans will line up to talk about what a great guy he was. About how dedicated he was to his province and to his family. About how his work ethic inspired them to public service. There will be compliments paid, grudging statements made by politicians who wouldn't have crossed the street if Ed was on fire and they had a bucket of water. The sort of people who don't even show up on Ed's last day in the Legislature to grit their teeth and thank him for his service.

I don't want to wait. I don't want my thanks to go to Marie and his children and grandchildren.

I want to say it now, to the man himself.

Thank-you, Ed. For everything. Even the stuff we disagreed on.

Enjoy your retirement. God knows you've earned it.



Thursday, September 29, 2011

Convince Me: Alison Redford (part 2)

Nation, I committed to posting your messages as you try to convince me - and the millions of members of the E.S. Nation - to vote for your candidate of choice on October 1st.

The second message I got today was, like the first, from a backer of Alison Redford. That's the way it's worked out. If the next one is ALSO from a Redford backer, I'll post it just like I would a message from a Horner or Mar backer.

This is your chance to make your case. Step up on the soap-box that is The Enlightened Savage's blog.

Submitted text begins... now.

*****

As I thought about what to write you, I remembered something that Alison said months ago at a Calgary event "the PC Party today will never elect me as their leader, but the PC Party that we need to be - will".


I think that this speaks a lot to where Alison has been trying to move the conversation. The focus has been less on existing Party members and more on engaging new Albertans to join the Party. This entire leadership race should have been about nothing but party renewal and proving that the new Leader of the PC Party can listen, respond and speak on behalf of all Albertans - not just the traditional base of PC Party members. After 40 years in power, we need to prove that we are still relevant.

Working in government for the past three years I have had the privilege of being part of Safe Communities and seeing real change being made not only with respect to gangs and crime but on the root causes of addiction, mental health and work with at-risk youth. I also though saw just how much things needed to change. There is a mentality that “well, we’ve always done it this way” stifling new, creative and bold ideas that could actually mean better government and services for Albertans. And not just with respect to the nine departments connected to SafeCom, but across all areas in government.

The only reason that we made progress was because of who was leading Safe Communities – Alison Redford.

The exhaustive list of policies that Alison has released rely heavily on employing the Safe Com model. Forcing departments to work together, engaging in actual consultation to develop public policy and looking at the outcomes we want to achieve will be core principles in Alison's govenment. I know that this works. Alberta is leading the agenda of cross-ministry work across North America. We even had people from Obama's team come up to ask us how we were able to do something of this scale as there is such a gap in cross-department work in all governments.

Until the last three years, Alison's experience is almost entirely international. And actually international - like there are bodies of water involved. These continents are our future markets and Alison knows how to work with governments and stakeholders amongst different cultures. It's another area that people can put a "checkmark" beside when they think of what our future Premier needs to be able to do.

On top of all of this, I really think that Alison has laid out policies that matter. My sister is a teacher, my sisters and I all have auto-immune diseases and require a lot of contact with the health-care system, my grandparents are in their mid-80's and about to be seperated after 63 years due to varying health care needs and both my parent's careers rely on the success of the energy industry. I think that her policies speak to what Albertans are asking for and I think that is the mark of a good leader.

I think that Alison, as a mother, wife, daughter, also allow her to bring a different lens to government. She wears her heart on her sleeve - which is both good and bad! You know how's she's feeling and she'll always fight for what she believes is right. I would hazard a guess that at about 75% of our SafeCom announcements, Alison had tears and hugs for all of the participants. She cares and connects with people in a way that makes me feel like I'm the Tin Man! I've also seen her in meetings with energy leaders - she's focused, smart (which they love!) and not afraid to tell it like it is. I've also heard people call Alison a "bitch". You know, I think I'm ok with my Premier being labeled a "bitch" every now and then if it moves Alberta forward. If she was a guy she'd be deemed strong and deliberate but c'est la vie!

Anyway, I think that Albertans are ready to give the PC Party one last opportunity to prove why we should remain in power. And unless we seize this opportunity and actually elect a candidate that will govern differently, encourage new dynamic community leaders to run for MLA and inspire Albertans to believe that change is possible - I believe the opportunity will be lost. The window is open for 8 more days.

I hope you'll consider giving Alison at least one of your votes on October 1.

Thanks,

[name withheld]
 
*****

Convince Me: Alison Redford

Submitted text appears below. - E.S.

*****

Many of you probably know that the party I have long been involved with, the Alberta PC Party, is about to choose a new Leader who will ultimately become Premier of this province. And I’m sure it won’t surprise you that I’m involved in helping to elect one of those candidates.


But I wanted to share some of the reasons that I think Alison Redford should be our next Premier, because they’re very different than you might expect.

Over the course of my political involvement, I have come to work for a number of candidates because they were friends or I had friends working for their campaigns. Normally I have a horse picked in any given race long before it starts. Not this time, though.

A few weeks before Premier Ed Stelmach announced his resignation and launched us into a leadership race, my wife and I found out that we were expecting our first child. I share that not to politicize my first-born, but because it very much changed the perspective I had when trying to decide who I wanted to be our next Premier.

Gone were my bachelor days when fancy logos and a good hospitality suite at party functions would go a long way in swaying my vote. All of a sudden I was about to become someone’s father – responsible for their well-being and success – and I wanted to use my involvement in the political arena to choose someone who would do the right things for my kids’ future.

So instead of thinking of the usual party politics, I started asking myself what was important. Health care and education were rarely policy topics that I spent much time on before, but they were suddenly front-and-centre as an expectant father.

The biggest area of public policy that someone who is about to have a baby comes in contact with is our health care system. As someone who hadn’t previously spent much time in doctor’s offices or hospitals, I was suddenly introduced to a world of specialists, referrals, hospital protocols and so on. It is a delicate patchwork of a system that confuses many. One of the first things that struck me about Alison Redford was her proposal for province-wide public Family Care Clinics open from 7am to 9pm. Anyone who’s been through an emergency room recently know that there are far too many people who have to rely on emergency as an access point for basic care. This is a tremendous waste of resources and, I think, can be drastically reduced through these proposed Family Care Clinics. Putting the parent-to-be hat on, I’d sure rather avoid taking my child to an emergency room if I can.

As someone who just built a house in a new neighbourhood that doesn’t yet have a school nearby, I also wanted someone who was focused on improving outcomes AND access to education. In Alison Redford, I saw someone who listens to the teachers like the ones I talk to when they say that the Provincial Achievement Exams for Grades 3 and 6 are a burden on kids with no correlating benefit to the education they receive. And I saw someone who was committed to predictable funding so that we don’t have to wonder if our son or daughter’s teachers would have jobs the following year. As much as my wife and I joke that we don’t want to become “those parents” who micromanage their kids’ education, I do want the system that educates our kids to be properly funded and managed so that our kids are ready to go out into the world when they graduate.

The other thing that struck me about Alison Redford is her global, big-picture perspective. Being able to think about Alberta beyond its borders will be important for the next Premier as they work to diversify our energy and agricultural economy and to improve and defend our reputation abroad. When I say I want someone with a global perspective of Alberta, I don’t mean “What do people in Washington think about us?” We need a leader who truly understands how interconnected our world is and can talk about Alberta not just in the context of the United States but also in the context of places like Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Alison Redford has worked in almost every corner of the globe as a legal advisor and election administrator with the United Nations. I am confident she is best suited to represent Alberta to the world and, just as importantly, bring the world to Alberta. That’s the kind of province I want my kids to grow up in.

I was lucky enough to sit next to Alison at a dinner a few weeks ago in Edmonton. The conversation between her, myself, and another Redford supporter who is also expecting soon, varied back and forth between our forthcoming kids and the politics that surrounded us. At one point, talking about what Alberta might look like 20 years from now, I stopped the train of conversation and said “You know, that’s really what this is about. The Alberta that Jess and I are going to live and work in is already coming down the pipe. We’re all doing this for our kids.” It was an absolutely true statement, and exactly the reason I want Alison to be our next Premier.

If any of this has stuck a chord with you, my non-political Alberta friends, you can actually have a say in the outcome. For $5, you can buy a membership in the PC Party of Alberta and join me in electing this incredibly thoughtful and intelligent woman as our next Premier. Election day is Saturday, September 17 (advance polls today, September 13!) and there are voting locations in every constituency in Alberta. You can read more about Alison and how and where to vote at http://www.alisonredford.ca/

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Convince Me: Gary Mar

The following comes via a Gary Mar supporter who took me up on my offer to post arguments in favour of a writer's preferred candidate.

As always, this should not be construed as an endorsement by myself.

Their text (with abbreviations edited to their full-length) begins now.

*****

I have known Gary since the mid 90s. We met when he was Seniors Minister and I was a reporter in Olds. I watched him speak with a group of irate seniors and bring them onside regarding cuts to seniors' programs. He can connect with people of any stripe in a very sincere and real way. I traveled with him a lot when he was Education Minister and that view was only solidified. Gary is smart enough to understand the issues in a comprehensive way and pragmatic enough to find consensus.

*****

I will continue to post there as I get them. As a reminder, they can be emailed to me at oberhoffner (at) facebook (dot) com.

- E.S.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Convince Me: Doug Horner

Nation, yesterday I challenged my IRL friends and contacts within the PC Party and the various leadership camps to write me and explain why their candidate was the best choice to lead the party and the province.

You didn't let me down - responses started coming in almost immediately.

I'm not going to analyse or critique these arguments. I've read them, and I'm posting them one at a time for the rest of you (with the sender's names removed) to see for yourself what the arguments are.

We're all smart people, in a mature democracy. You don't need me telling you who to vote for. But below is someone else's opinion on PC Leadership candidate Doug Horner.

*****

Hi Joey,


Here is my pitch for Horner- I am not going to reiterate his policy, but rather why I think he should lead. In our shop we are quite concerned that the other candidates only glaze over economic diversification and do not understand its importance or what it takes. That is not the case with Doug. I have three items I want to share with you, a letter, a bit more background on diversification and then some thoughts on Doug as the most experienced leader. My great concern with lawyers as positions is they are trained to persuade people to accept other people’s positions. I want a leader with on the ground, practical experience and who has their own views. Views they developed in dialogue, of course, and which they have come to make their own mind up about. Policy is one thing but in the end we are electing someone to make the best decisions on the margin. I believe that leader is Doug. He is in it for all the right reasons.

A letter to Albertans

The future prosperity of Alberta depends on our ability to broaden our economic base (see below). Our new Premier’s top priority must be this goal.


The Premier’s job description necessarily includes knowledge of and commitment to economic diversification. This involves broadening the economic base, stimulating innovation and technology commercialization, and spawning the creation of new Alberta companies producing new products in new industries. From this perspective in the Party’s decision making, the experience of the three candidates is relevant. The choice should be obvious—Horner is clearly the most qualified of the three candidates.


In addition to his previous business experience and his tenure as Minister of Agriculture, his five years at Advanced Education and Technology has forged Horner’s qualities as a leader and shaped him for the job ahead as Premier. The importance of this is not significantly acknowledged.


As Minister of Advanced Education and Technology, Horner was responsible for 26 post-secondary institutions and the entire provincial research cluster, recently reorganized into Alberta Innovates. Doug created the Value Added and Technology Commercialization Task Force, whose mandate was to direct the diversification of the Alberta economy over a 15 year time frame. The Task Force resulted in the creation of Alberta’s Action Plan for Technology Commercialization, which focused on entrepreneurial support, innovation assistance and the creation of the Alberta Enterprise Corporation. The AEC serves as a catalyst for venture capital activity, which is a priority of the Alberta capital market.


Doug’s department conceived the Premier’s Council for Economic Strategy (PCES). The PCES released its report, referred to as the Emerson Report after its Chair David Emerson, prior to the leadership campaign. It includes five major recommendations intended to diversify and strengthen the Alberta economy within a 30 year time frame. The vision which the foregoing represents is central to Doug policy platform in the leadership race.


Doug’s platform is important to Alberta, as it supports the development of the province as a venture capital centre. We know that deals come to the money and tend to stay where the money is managed. Silicon Valley, and its Sand Hill Road, is the best example. As the oil sands and conventional fossil fuel related industries mature, Alberta can transcend the hydrocarbon economy by developing as a financial services centre including energy finance and venture capital.


The top three candidates are each strong in their own way, all will likely be in cabinet. What we have to ask ourselves is who we want to lead. For us, it is the leader with the most relevant experience, the boldest vision and the most realistic action plan. That leader is Doug Horner. Visit his site, check him out, and make the right decision for Alberta in October 1st. Vote Doug Horner.

The future prosperity of Alberta depends on our ability to broaden our economic base

In December 2010, the Alberta Competitiveness Council released its first annual report. It compares Alberta to 15 other jurisdictions on 45 indicators. Of particular concern was Alberta ranking in innovation and venture capital, the only section in which Alberta ranked in the bottom quintile; consider the following indicators:

· Gross expenditure on R&D, as % of GDP: 14/15
· Business expenditure on R&D, as % of GDP: 13/15
· Employment in high-tech manufacturing: 13/14
· Employment in knowledge intensive industries: 13/14
· Venture capital investment, as a % of GDP: 14/15
· Venture capital deals, per 100,000 people: 9/13

This comparison showcases a significant strategic weakness in Alberta economy. It represents a classic case of Dutch disease, whereby the presence of a major export market crowds out the development of a more diversify economic base. A strong and growing industrial base is foundational to a successful society. Given the competitive advantage of large, low-cost economies such as India and China, maintenance of our economic base requires continuous innovation. This innovation should be both in the extraction, processing and transporting of commodities but also in the development of capabilities in new markets such as clean technologies. One of the major components in bridging this gap is further development of the junior capital markets. Alberta already as a good start in financial services and expertise and it should be nurtured and encouraged to focus some attention to non-energy related financing. This growth of junior financing activity is one of the mandates of the Alberta Enterprise Corporation (AEC). The formation of a vibrant market requires an understanding of the potential participants, their needs, and the ways in which they interact.


Horner as a leader

· Doug recognizes that the oil and gas sector and oilsands development are paramount to our province today, but he also has a vision for a more diversified Alberta, critical to the long term expansion of our economic base. Alberta today stands at a crossroads which will determine the type of province our grandchildren inherit. To degrees, this vision is not being similarly demonstrated by the other candidates—but Doug gets it!
· As Minister of Advanced Education and Technology from 2006-2011, he was responsible for 26 post-secondary institutions, Alberta’s research and innovation programs, and the Task Force on Value Added and Technology Commercialization. Doug was the only candidate present at the release of the Premier’s Economic Strategy Council Report, a plan for Alberta 30 years hence. He is one of the few politicians who really understands the importance of our post-secondary institutions in relation to culture, innovation, venture capital and entrepreneurship.
· His working background includes significant banking, international and entrepreneurial business experience, ten years in government, including 3 years as Minister of Agriculture, and a solid, on-the-ground understanding of the entire province. Doug has the perspective required to lead!
· As we’ve introduced him to small groups around Calgary, Doug’s grasp of the issues has become very apparent. He has depth and breadth. There is nothing shallow about Doug, once people have a chance to know him their support follows.

I am available to talk more about any of this and I hope it has spur some thinking with you about what Doug brings to the table.

*****

I want to thank to writer for his thoughts, and his passionate argument for Doug. He's given me a lot to think about. I hope it has been in some way useful to the rest of you, as well. I'll keep posting the best of these for the 3 candidates - more than one for each candidate, if I can keep the numbers balanced - between now and next Saturday.
- E.S.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Convince Me

Nation, as I indicated in my most recent missive, I'm conflicted about this second stage of the PC Leadership race.

One of the big sticking points for me has been my awareness - seemingly rare among politicos - that I do not, in fact, know everything about everything.

Not to worry - I still knew MORE than enough to inform a Wildrose candidate on Twitter earlier today that his calls for "transparency" rang hollow, coming from someone whose party leader didn't release the list of donors to her own campaign. He accused me of innuendo, and informed me (as the well-informed candidate for an MLA job that he is) that all donations were posted on the Elections Alberta website. They're not, and that's not the rule. Leadership races are voluntary disclosure because you're donating to a person, not a registered political party. Oops. Might be something you want to know before throwing around words like "transparency" or running for office to re-write laws that you clearly don't understand.
But hey, this isn't about the ignorance - willful or otherwise - of a candidate for public office. That time will come. This is about MY blind spots. The things I don't know, or can't see, about the 3 remaining contenders for the leadership of the PC Party.

As I've mentioned before, there are people I know and respect who are backing each of the 3 finalists. What I want from them in this last 8 days of the campaign, then, is a little help. Not press releases or retweets from the official campaign account - I've seen more than enough of those.

I want to hear from people I *know*, in their OWN words...  why is your candidate the best choice to unite the party? To renew it? To reinvent the way the PC Party relates to Albertans? To make the party relevant again? To govern justly and with empathy and wisdom?

Convince me, Friends. Why should I, and my readers, support your candidate? Don't tell me he's got an "inspiring vision" - tell me what the vision IS. Don't tell me what she's done - tell me what she's GOING to do.

Send your pitch to oberhoffner (at) facebook.com.  A sample of the best ones advocating each candidate - with the names of the senders removed - will be posted on the blog, to convince the Nation.

I await Enlightenment.

Stepping off my soap-box, to make room for you and YOUR candidate...

- E.S.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Race to the Premier's Office - 9 Days to the Second Ballot

Nation, by now you've no doubt heard the results of the first ballot to replace outgoing PC Leader and Premier Ed Stelmach. For those living under a rock, though, here they are again:

Gary Mar 24,195 (40.8%)
Alison Redford 11,127 (18.7%)
Doug Horner 8,635 (14.5%)
Ted Morton 6,962 (11.7%)
Rick Orman 6,005 (10.1%)
Doug Griffiths 2,435 (4.1%)

Total eligible votes cast: 59,359

We're going to be going back to those numbers quite a bit, so pack a lunch.

First impressions: HUGE blow to Ted Morton, who was generally accepted as a shoo-in for a second ballot. He missed the cut by just under 1,700 votes. More on Ted later.

The obvious outcome of this result is that, as the title of this blog post would suggest, we are headed for a second ballot. On October 1st (advance polls on Tuesday, September 27th) the top 3 finishers - Mar, Redford, and Horner - will go toe-to-toe trying to secure the 50%+1 result required to win the PC Party Leadership and, by extension, the Premier's Office. Party members will be asked to indicate a first and, if they wish, a second choice. If none of the 3 reaches the 50%+1 threshold when the ballots are counted on Saturday night, then the 3rd-place finisher will drop off the ballot, and the ballots indicating them as a "first choice" will be recounted and moved to the column of the indicated 2nd choice.

It's far from a perfect system, but it DOES have the advantage of ensuring that the PC's will always - ALWAYS - have a Leader who was supported, as a first or 2nd choice, by over 50% of the party's voting members.

I had the chance to debate this system with my fellow CalgaryPolitics.com charter member Shane Byciuk of CalgaryRants on Monday, courtesy of CBC Radio One's "The Homestretch". Click here to hear Shane get pWned.

Turn-out has been a big story, as it should be. The turn-out versus the first round of the 2006 leadership race was down by 38,331 - that's a LOT of people who voted in 2006 and stayed home in 2011. The PC's owe it to themselves to try and figure out why. Honestly. The "farmers were working in the fields" spin isn't going to fly.

It's not ALL doom and gloom when talking turn-out, however. Membership sales, while not at historic levels, aren't historically LOW, either. The 60,000+ dues paid memberships puts them at well past double their closest competition in Alberta.

Of course, many of those members will dry up and blow away once the leadership race is over, never to be seen or heard from again. Such is the nature of leadership races, and of nomination races for that matter: people show up who have never been political and will never be political again, they vote the way they've been told to by friends or family, and that vote - cast in pure ignorance - has as much weight as anyone else. That's democracy.

So what of the vanquished?

Morton and Orman threw their support behind front-runner Mar earlier this week, with Griffiths following suit on the following day.

But why?

Morton was crushed by the first ballot results. He ran arguably a better campaign than in his run for the leadership in 2006, yet at the end of the night he received 19,000 FEWER votes than in 2006. Losses to the Wildrose? Some of them, certainly. Losses to Rick Orman? Some, perhaps. Lingering hard feelings towards Morton over his perceived palace coup against genuine nice guy Ed Stelmach? Some, sure. But Morton - who tried like hell during this race to show his fiscal conservative bona fides and stayed away from controversial social issues - expected to make the 2nd ballot, timed his campaign accordingly, and never crossed the finish line. The best he can hope for at this point is to again serve as Minister of Finance under Mar or, perhaps, to stand for his old job as a Senator-elect in the promised upcoming senatorial elections and maybe someday get the call from Stephen Harper to take a seat in Canada's Upper House. Either would be made more likely by currying favour with the sitting Premier.

Orman did surprisingly well - narrowly missing out on a 4th place finish. After the votes were counted, he indicated he was returning to "private life", however the Mar endorsement might indicate a change of heart for the Getty-era cabinet minister. Orman - who spent much of his campaign throwing punches towards Mar - mysteriously endorsed him after the first round of voting. It MAY have something to do with his strong showing in the Calgary-McCall poll, which Orman won with an astounding 79.9% of the votes cast. At 1,668 votes, none of the 6 candidates received more votes in any poll than Orman did in McCall. And that INCLUDES the Advance Polls. The votes he received for PC Leader in McCall were about half of the votes it would take for him to win the seat in a general election, currently held by Liberal Darshan Kang (and with no nominated Progressive Conservative in the constituency. Hmmm...)

Griffiths' endorsement of Mar came as a complete shock to many, myself included. The Griffiths campaign - which was made up completely of volunteers, from the campaign manager on down - was all about the need for change, and for discussions that the Old Boys weren't interested in having. Doug made his points, time and again, and while they were applauded and well-received, at the end of the day the party's voting membership gave him just over 4% support. Hardly a ringing endorsement. So why would the "agent of change" support Gary Mar, the candidate with the backing of 30 other sitting MLAs and half the cabinet? In short - because there's only so much you can do from the outside looking in, and Griffiths clearly feels Mar is going to win. If Griffiths ever wants to be at the table where the decisions are made, and push for the kind of change he's talking about, he's got to BE the Premier, or he's got to have the Premier's ear.

I hate that this is how it is. I think it shouldn't be this way. But that's how it is, and it'd be disingenuous for me to pretend I didn't understand. I do. I'm just not happy about it.

Of course, MLA endorsements - even those of your fellow leadership candidates - don't mean everything. In the case of all 3 defeated candidates, their campaign managers are NOT supporting Mar. Likewise with many of the campaign volunteers. And, lest we forget, Ted Morton had 10 MLA endorsements, and finished 4th. Alison Redford had one - Art Johnston of Calgary-Hays, which she didn't win anyhow - and finished 2nd. So it's not enough to have the MLA or candidate, you need to have a team under them, selling memberships and mobilizing voters.

Since the vote, Mar has acted every bit the "pending winner", talking in glowing terms about the candidates who have come over to his side, staying on message, and playing coy about a possible snap election call. Upon being sworn in as Leader and Premier, Mar will either need to authorize over 40 nomination races to take place with 2 weeks' notice, appoint candidates, or both, in order to call a fall election with his slate filled. Whispers have put a possible date for a general election as November 21st, under this scenario. If he instead chooses to hold a by-election in order to take a seat in the Legislature, suggestions are that Iris Evans has offered her Sherwood Park seat for Gary to run in.

Redford has come out guns blazing, trying to capitalize on the influx of talent and support from the Orman, Griffiths and Morton camps. She's been appealing to teachers. She's talking about health care. She's taken clear aim at Gary, drawing comparisons to 2006 when first ballot runner-up Morton went on the offense against front-runner Dinning, allowing third-place finisher Ed Stelmach to focus on selling memberships and ensuring that he was the second choice of both Dinning AND Morton supporters - a dual strategy that, ultimately, guaranteed Stelmach's victory, and wouldn't have been possible without the acrimony between the Morton and Dinning campaigns. The narrative has been "change versus the status quo".

Horner has scoffed at reports he might step aside, clearing the way for a Redford/Mar showdown at high noon. And who can blame him? He's in the "Stelmach position", drawing no fire, throwing no stink bombs, and free to campaign quietly and effectively without having to take time out of his day to deal with the opposition. Horner's campaign, which was virtually non-existent in Calgary and not much better in Edmonton, has added only one new PC caucus member, the incomparable Carl Benito of Edmonton-Millwoods. Carl has promised to deliver the goods for Horner on voting day, and if there's one thing we know about Carl: When he gives his word, it's good.

I'll re-post the voting information when we get closer to the advance polls and October 1st, as well as the candidate profiles.






As for MY reaction to the first ballot results...  I'm conflicted.

First of all: I don't know what the hell has happened to my friends, but I want it to stop, and I want them back. The name-calling, allegations, slick partisan jabs directed at each other... it wasn't this bad during the municipal election last October, and THAT was *bad*. I've gotten to the point where I've stopped logging onto Twitter, or at least started ignoring the #pcldr hashtag. It's an echo chamber now - you couldn't find un-spun truth in there with a polygraph hooked up to a Cochrane warp engine. When Twitter becomes a one-way broadcast medium for campaigns and re-tweeting campaign volunteers rather than a 2-way conversation medium, it loses its effectiveness.

Secondly, I've started second-guessing myself. It was clear to me earlier in this race that with the support of 26 MLAs, Gary Mar was the candidate of the status quo. He HAD to be - you can't get 26 politicians to agree on anything, EVER, unless it's directly related to them keeping their jobs.

But then, I started wondering - what if these endorsements aren't about cabinet spots and social climbing? What if they're about something else?

What if these MLA's - all of whom got their jobs the hard way, by running for office against real people and winning - know something that I don't? What if they know that Gary Mar really IS the guy to unite the PC's, has a genuine drive to evolve the party into its next iteration, and is the best choice to beat Danielle, Raj, Brian and Glenn? Don't they know better than me? I'm interested. I'm involved. I'm even - from time to time - a little smart about this stuff. But their mortgages get paid by what they know. Their entire lives are funded by their ability to see the direction the wind is blowing. If they're all seeing this...  can they ALL be chasing cabinet jobs?

I've got friends supporting Gary. I've got friends supporting Alison. I've got friends supporting Doug. At the end of the day, I hope they can all be friends with each other again. But there's a real, seismic shift happening in the PC Party right now. And no matter WHO wins the leadership, there are going to be some pretty serious fault-lines that need dealing with, pronto. Will social or fiscal conservatives decide to leave and join the Wildrose? Leave and just stay home from now on? How about progressives - which is NOT a euphemism for "liberal", as neocons would have you believe (there are a lot of progressives in today's Wildrose)? Will they leave the party after what they might perceive as a victory of the "status quo"?

If change from WITHIN isn't possible, the only way to effect change is from WITHOUT...

I don't know what to think. If you held a gun to my head and forced me to bet on a likely winner, I think it's clear who I'd bet on. The math is pretty compelling. But memberships are for sale again. And in 2006, the smart money was on Dinning. And I don't bet against Stephen Carter candidates.

What I *do* know, though, is this: Every part of me is sick of this. I'm not just physically exhausted, I'm tired of this. And I'm a political wonk. This is like me deciding I'm sick of the Stanley Cup playoffs, a few days before the Finals start.

Is it the process? The antics of the campaigns? The behind-the-scenes machinations?

I don't know.

But I'm NOT a happy PC today. And I don't know what's going to change that.

Or if anything can.

- E.S.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

It's Time To Play The Music... It's Time To Light The Lights...

Nation, after what seems like a 16-year long campaign, the time has come to cast your vote for a new leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and, by extension, for Premier of Alberta.

My thousands (millions?) of PC-inclined readers are no doubt already on their way to the polling stations scattered across the province. I don't need to tell you how important this choice is.

However, I know a lot of people who read this blog are not normally inclined to support the PC's. That might be a recent development, or they might be life-long haters of the PC brand and all it stands for in their eyes.

I want you to buy a membership and vote anyhow.

Sitting on the sidelines and criticizing the decisions and choices that other people have made is easy.

But Albertans - of any political stripe - are not the type to take the easy road.

Want to change this province for the better?

But a membership. Go vote today. Vote again on October 1st. Pick a new leader for the PC's, who will chart a new direction. You KNOW that not all PC's are the same. You know that a different leader can change things dramatically. Look at Peter Lougheed. Now look at Ralph Klein. Same party, two TOTALLY different governments.

And, after all is said and done, if you STILL hate the PC's, then volunteer for your local Wildrose, Alberta Party, Liberal or NDP costituency association. Stand for election yourself. Make a difference.

ALL of you, PC and otherwise - make a difference. Because oh MAN, do we need difference-makers in this province.

It starts with voting, today.



VOTING INFORMATION

WHO CAN VOTE? Eligible voters shall be:


  • Canadian Citizens
  • Of the full age of 16 years
  • Ordinarily resident in Alberta for at least six (6) months immediately prior to the voting date
  • Members in good standing of a Provincial Progressive Conservative Constituency Association (this just means you've paid for your membership)

HOW DO I BECOME A PC PARTY MEMBER IN ORDER TO VOTE? You can buy a membership for $5 at your local polling station right up until the polls close at 7 pm.

WHERE DO I VOTE? Click on this link, and then on the name of your constituency.

HOW DO I DETERMINE IN WHICH CONSTITUENCY I LIVE? Click on this link, select "Postal Code" and enter yours. Easy as pie. Or cake. Whichever's easiest.

WHAT DO I NEED TO BRING TO THE POLLING STATION TO PROVE MY ELIGIBILITY? (this is a big one - PLEASE read this carefully)

Each person must present their membership card and two pieces of Identification, one of which should be a picture ID, acceptable to establish residency within the constituency. Eligible identification includes but is not limited to:


 
  • Driver’s license
  • Passport
  • Citizenship Card
  • Social Insurance Card
  • Student ID
  • Utility bill
  • Property tax bill
  • Automobile insurance card

 
Voters whose eligibility as Canadian citizens is challenged will be required to show evidence of Canadian Citizenship such as:

 
  • Citizenship Card
  • Birth certificate
  • Passport
  • If challenged, proof of age.

 

Friday, September 16, 2011

PC Leadership Candidate Profile - Doug Griffiths

Dark horse.

Maverick.

Agent of Change.

Doug Griffiths has been called a lot of things in this race. My favourite, though, has to be "Weapon of Mass Discussion". Griffiths, the 9-year MLA from Battle River-Wainwright, will talk to anyone, about any issue, without any fear at all. He was one of the first MLAs in Alberta to make direct use of social media - no staffers filtering his account or writing for him - and he remains one of the best at it. But through the entire campaign, one question has dogged the Griffiths campaign: Who IS Doug Griffiths?

He's a family man, first and foremost. This blogger has been in attendance at speeches where Griffiths has, when speaking about children and family, had to pause to collect himself. He has missed his 2 young sons and his wife terribly during this leadership campaign. He's also a renaissance man, and a study in remarkable contrasts: A University of Alberta grad in Philosophy and Education, Griffiths was an award-winning teacher - a job he took to, in his words, "support my ranching habit". He still maintains that ranch. He's one of the few people you'll meet who drives a pick-up because he needs to, has cowboy boots that get worn over 250 days per year, and can also type a Tweet without looking at the keys. He's an author, so passionate about communities that his speech, "13 Ways to Kill Your Community", which started on the back on a napkin, has been delivered in every corner of the province over the past 10 years and came out in book form recently. He defies being pigeon-holed as "left" or "right" - talking about equality of opportunity and how government can be a force for good while at the same time standing firmly in favour of personal responsibility for our actions. His campaign - 100% staffed by volunteers - has also been the most "blog-friendly", making sure that at every turn, from Day One, bloggers get invited to every event, to spread the message without wastefully spending donor money on ads - a nod to Doug's fiscal conservatism.

Griffiths is a man who doesn't shy away from having difficult discussions on account of political expediency. He famously raised the subject of a consumption tax - a provincial sales tax, in other terms - only to have it dismissed summarily by Premier Stelmach last year. If all provincial goods and services were paid for by sales tax revenue, and the trade-off was that you could eliminate the provincial portion of your income tax - the money you work to earn - wouldn't that be a discussion worth at least having? Current political dogma doesn't even allow the conversation, which was exactly Griffiths' point. Good governance doesn't have room for dogma. When Doug talks about the need for long-term planning - "if we want more doctors 10 years from now, we have to start training them yesterday" - it strikes a chord with his audience. When he speaks of his vision for an Alberta of 20 years from now, he has been favourably compared to Peter Lougheed, who at 38 - ironically, the age at which Griffiths is often dismissed as "too young" - was elected leader of the PC Party with no experience in the Legislative Assembly. Aged 38, Griffiths has been around for nearly a decade already, and is consistently left out of cabinet due to, according to insiders, his penchant for being outspoken in his belief that an MLA's loyalty to the voters and the truth is more important than loyalty to the Premier or the government.

Policy:

Each of Griffiths' policy releases has been accompanied by a very impressive video of the candidate laying out the argument and the vision. They're among the best videos I've seen, from anyone, running for anything, anywhere. Definitely worth taking the time to look at. Some of the policy highlights:

  • Reengineer government, reducing regulatory burden on business/industry and on government employees.
  • Turn the power of the legislature back to Members of the Legislative Assembly and accordingly back to Albertans.
  • All health professionals can be used to their full scope of professional practice.
  • Every health dollar allocation will have a performance measure associated with it to ensure value for money and quality service for the patient.
  • Personal responsibility for your own health will be re-introduced into the system.
  • A new focus on healthy living and preventative medicine rather than simply treatment of illness.
  • Continue the development of Land Use Planning Initiatives that blend local planning, global best practices, accurate environmental information, provincial long term objectives, and protection of property rights.
  • Increase the acreage of parks and protected places in the province for environmental reasons, and also to meet the growing demands of those who wish to enjoy those spaces.
  • Support the University of Lethbridge Water Research Institute in research and development to ensure our global leadership on best practices in all aspects of water
  • Encourage sustainable transportation around our urban centers that encourage emission reductions which will improve our air quality
  • Alberta must work to remove the administrative and regulatory burden and cost of local food production and distribution.
  • Adopt policy and regulatory structures that support local and national food security.
  • Municipalities are critical to building better communities. We must clearly identify roles and responsibilities of the various levels of government as it relates to community issues. Once the roles and responsibilities are identified, appropriate funding levels and performance measures can be set, enabling the delivery of services that build better communities.
  • Once roles and responsibilities have been clearly defined, revenue issues can be settled. Just as the province needs a stable revenue stream, so do the municipalities need steady, secure revenue sources to provide services and to build strong communities. Municipal government is a mature level of government, accountable to its electorate, and if communities identify a need for specific infrastructure, they should have the ability to levy taxes to pay for it when their citizens agree.
  • Recognize the benefit and the importance of infrastructure investments to support quality of life needs and economic growth in every corner of the province to ensure the long-term success of all Albertans.
  • Search for opportunities to use public infrastructure to maximize community benefits and address community needs, such as schools, hospitals, seniors’ complexes, and so on.
  • Encourage and support arts, culture, recreation, and heritage. These activities are part of our community infrastructure and directly impact the quality of life in a community. Arts and culture activities thrive in communities with a positive attitude and outlook, without additional government funding.
  • Balance program spending and tax revenue. A Griffiths government will focus on long term planning so Alberta is prepared for the next boom with an established foundation, so any surplus energy dollars flow into the Heritage Savings Trust Fund.
  • Albertans are proud and want to pay their share as long as their money is not wasted. Alberta can no longer afford to have politicians try to “out-bid” each other with Albertans’ own tax dollars, as it is not government’s money, but Albertans’ money. Non-essential programs should be funded privately through alternate revenue sources such as personal service fees or corporate donations.
  • Albertans and their government need to be open to reforming the province’s tax structure to maintain Alberta’s competitive advantage.
  • To make the appropriate financial decisions, Alberta must have a long term plan first. The province must get value for the money spent and the best way to do this is to first understand what its long term goals are. If Albertans and their government know the long term goals, government is able to do a cost benefit analysis to ensure the province’s money is spent wisely.
  • Select professional service providers based on qualifications, not cost.
  • We must review all ministry budgets and identify efficiency targets. Government is not 100% efficient. A 10% improvement in government efficiency or priority re-allocation for the current $39 Billion annual budget will yield an overall savings of $3.9 Billion in the 2011/12 fiscal year. This improvement in efficiency will take Alberta from a deficit budget to a surplus budget, and start the province on the path of saving for the future.
  • Ensure all students are successful in literacy and numeracy by grade three.
  • Focus on education, not school fees. School fees should not be a barrier for education, particularly those who are less fortunate and more vulnerable. Basic school requirements should be included in our public education system.
  • Reward excellence in teaching and recognize the profession for the value they contribute to our society. Establish a teaching reward system based on merit and outcomes.
  • Ensure arts and fine arts are available in our basic education system – helping to build the creative thinkers and creative leaders to handle the dynamic and rapidly changing global economy.
  • Encourage growth of programs similar to the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP) and the International Baccalaureate Program (IB) that addresses the challenges of providing unique programs in high school that match the individual student’s interests and the needs of society.
  • Reform the student loan / bursary program to ensure Alberta students who require funding assistance have access to it.
  • Increase the capacity in our post secondary institutions in order to leverage provincial and federal research and development project grants and private investment making Alberta the most attractive place to conduct research and facilitate innovation.

The Long & Short Of It:

It's been suggested that Griffiths will be a great premier someday, but that it's not his "turn", as the premiership must return to Calgary this time. Despite the fact that he's younger than the other candidates, though, Griffiths has a great deal of experience as an MLA. The problem, though, has been that he collects legions of devoted followers one room at a time - and other candidates for the leadership are much better known. Whispers around the Legislature before Premier Stelmach announced his departure earlier this year were that Griffiths was done being kicked around and ignored by his own party caucus and leadership. He was widely expected to choose not to run again for the PC's, go home, teach and tend to the ranch, and eventually run for Reeve in Paintearth County, where he could put his community building theories to use, parlay his immense local popularity into holding the job as long as he wanted it, and try to build the area as a "Shining City on the Hill". He still might, if the party rejects change, and chooses a "status quo" candidate as leader. I know, from talking to many of my contacts within the various campaigns, that Griffiths would be FAR from the only party member to leave the PC's if the status quo wins the day.

His performances at the PC Leadership Forums have been outstanding. His jokes hit the mark, his body language shows his sincerity, and his messages - while not the comfortable pablum that party members expect -  resound with Henry and Martha. He's a social media giant - by leaps and bounds the most active and followed on-line. But will any of that make a difference? Or will the PC Party pick a "safer" candidate - one better known, less likely to do something radical and potentially cost the party its 40-year grip on power?

"He'd be a great choice, next time" goes the line from supporters of other candidates.

But as Griffiths himself points out: Albertans are bold, and the PC Party might be out of "next time's".

"This is our moment... this is not 'next time country'."


Links:

Doug Griffiths campaign website

Calgary Herald profile and video for Doug Griffiths



Thursday, September 15, 2011

PC Leadership Candidate Profile - Alison Redford

Alison Redford is a successful, independent woman - mother to a nine year-old girl, a lawyer who advised Brian Mulroney and Joe Clark on policy before travelling the world promoting the structural edification of human rights into the governance of developing democracies and who counts Nelson Mandela among her mentors...

BANG!

That sound you just heard might have been Rob Anders' head exploding. Don't be alarmed.

A first-term MLA representing Calgary-Elbow, Alison Redford has her eyes set on being the 2nd Premier to hail from the southwest Calgary riding (the first was a fella named "Ralph" a few years ago). Appointed to cabinet in the high profile position of Minister of Justice immediately after being elected, the unapologetic carnivore (the "Redford Diet", I'm told, includes nothing that never had parents) had some big expectations to meet - and by most accounts, she did just fine, thank-you very much. In fact, Redford's term as Minister of Justice was so successful, earlier in this campaign she gained the endorsement of the Calgary Police Association, representing the members of the Calgary Police Service. If you're a lawyer and the cops actually LIKE you, you're doing something right. The strategy for Team Redford has seemed to be, from the beginning, "make the top 3" - and if recent polls are to be believed, that goal is within reach. As an unapologetic Red Tory, not to mention the only woman in the race, the hope is that Redford would do very well at converting supporters of defeated candidates, particularly those espousing "change", into Redford voters on the second ballot.

In many ways, Alison is the Wildrose Party's worst nightmare. She certainly brings with her some issues that they'd camp out overnight just to attack - such as her participation with Human Rights Commissions - but, on the flip side, she's an articulate woman who flat-out knows her stuff and loves to mix it up, verbally.  Which cancels out many of the advantages that the Wildrose expected they'd have over Ed Stelmach in the next election (Ed has been called many things over the years, but "womanly" has never been one of them).  In the verbal sparring match between the former television personality and the lawyer, once they go off-script, you bet the lawyer. Every time. And if public debates matter, that has to be a very worrying outcome for the Wildrose.

Policy:

Much of Redford's campaign has focused on the need for immediate solutions to immediate issues, followed by long-term planning. Examples of this include her pledge to immediately reverse the teacher cuts of this fall to get those teachers back into Alberta classrooms, and the setting up of Family Care Clinics so that families with working parents can still access the health system without needing to go to the local E.R.  Some of the others:

  • Rejuvenating Albertans' freedom to access government information by speeding up replies to requests for information and keeping processing fees low;
  • Mandating that leadership candidates from all parties must publicly disclose their donors so Albertans can see where each is drawing support;
  • Enacting whistle-blower legislation to force government to own up to its mistakes and in doing so, learn from them;
  • Studying methods of telephone and e-voting so the disabled, residents in isolated areas and Albertans traveling abroad can easily have their say at election time.
  • Increase funding for the arts in the education system, allowing schools to provide stronger course offerings with more capacity;
  • Develop an organized campaign to promote kids' access to the arts outside school - studies show that kids who regularly attend public art performances display a higher degree of public engagement as adults.
  • Encourage high schools to develop close links with post-secondary universities, colleges and trade schools to allow students to obtain dual credits, better preparing them for higher studies;
  • End provincial achievement tests for Grades 3 and 6, as these are too stressful for students and do not impart the information we need to measure performance.
  • Legislate to end the "No Fail" practice in grade school, giving every student the chance to succeed or fail on their own merits.
  • Allow adults at any age to obtain their high school diplomas for free via continuing education, no matter their age or how long they've been out of school.
  • It is important that we restart the discussion between the ATA, school boards and the province to renew the current arrangement that would include more prep time for teachers, changes to professional days and review of class sizes. Guaranteed funding is needed to ensure we can continue to improve what we have started.
  • Put post-secondary education funding on a 3-year funding cycle, so institutions will know what to expect and be able to plan effectively.
  • Ensure all health care services at continuing care facilities are provided by Alberta Health Services. We need to separate private delivery of housing and related services from publicly funded and publicly delivered health care services.
  • Expand the range of health care that is provided in continuing care facilities and seniors private homes so that seniors don't have to travel to hospitals unnecessarily. Not only will this be more convenient and comfortable for seniors, it will also reduce pressure on our acute care system.
  • Devolve decision making authority, and the responsibility that goes with it, to local decision makers within the health care system.
  • Require AHS to publish local quarterly performance reports according to a set of indicators with comparisons to provincial standards in including: 
               - Emergency wait times
               - Surgery wait times
               - Hospital and clinic acquired infection rates
  • $1,500 Family Recreation Tax Credit to support participation in organized sports and recreational activities like summer camps.
  • Childcare must be accessible and affordable. Alberta will subsidize childcare for all Alberta families with less than $50,000 household income.
  • Create a 10-year corporate tax exemption for new daycare operators and a personal income tax exemption for all income earned by daycare or day home employees and owners.
  • Reintroduce full-day kindergarten within one year of forming government.
  • Create a Department of Human Services to replace Child & Family Services, Community Spirit, Housing & Urban Affairs, Employment & Immigration and Aboriginal Affairs (shrinking cabinet by 4 ministries).
  • Establish a truly independent Child Advocate to monitor the performance of provincial child welfare services, advocate on behalf of children in care and report directly to the Legislative Assembly.
  • Start a Children's Serious Incident Review Team to independently investigate the death of any child in provincial care.
  • Require all government departments to conduct detailed program reviews and demonstrate why programs and services cannot be delivered by community-based organizations or the private sector. Within six months, I want to identify services that can be transferred to community leadership or privatized.
  • Implement a five-year funding model for Alberta Health Services and a three-year model for education at all levels.
  • Order regular budgetary reviews to uncover savings in existing expenditures wherever possible. Departmental budgets will only grow when there is a clear need, not just a desire for more money.


The Long & Short Of It:
Alison Redford may very well be the next Premier of Alberta. Her campaign seems to be firing on all cylinders, she's not promising the moon but rather achievable, measurable results, and she benefits from the "Anybody but Mar" sentiment that is floating around in some party circles. She's going to need to make a good impression at the Edmonton forum and go full-court-press to Get Out The Vote on Saturday, especially in Calgary, where she's said to be leading among party members. If she makes it through to the 2nd ballot, she's got a real shot. I'm a big fan of the "long-term planning" that she speaks of so often, and I'm willing to look past the fact that she's a graduate of Bishop Carroll High School, the arch-rival of my own Bishop Grandin. Despite that, though, she's competing against a tried-and-true political machine backing Ted Morton, a well-funded juggernaut in Gary Mar, and a very well-supported long-time cabinet member in Doug Horner - not to mention maverick Rick Orman and progressive darling Doug Griffiths.  If Alison wants to beat at least 3 of those candidates on Saturday, it's going to take guts, organization, and hard work.
Can she do it?
Absolutely she can. She's assembled a great team.
WILL she do it?
Wait until the ballots are counted. That's why we do this "voting" thing, rather than just letting the blogger decide who wins.
Links:
NOTE: I had the opportunity to sit down and interview Redford last week. That interview appears below.

video

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

PC Leadership Candidate Profile - Ted Morton

Candyman.


Candyman.

Candyman.

 
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.

 
Policy:

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?

 
Links:

 
Ted Morton campaign website

 
Calgary Herald profile and video for Ted Morton

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, September 12, 2011

PC Leadership Candidate Profile - Gary Mar

Newton's Second Law of Motion defines "momentum" as "mass multiplied by velocity".

That said, Gary Mar had better find the accelerator on his huge campaign bus, because momentum can be a fickle mistress for such a massive campaign.

Mar has been the front-runner for this race since the day after the LAST PC Leadership race. An able cabinet minister, Mar served as an MLA for his north Calgary riding from 1993 to 2007 and as a cabinet minister under Ralph Klein in the portfolios of Environment, Community Development, Education, Health and International/Intergovernmental Relations. Before being first elected at age 31, Mar was a lawyer in his hometown of Calgary, earning the much-coveted "Q.C." designation for his accomplishments in the legal field.

After leaving the political arena in 2007, Mar accepted a posting to Washington as Minister-Counsellor of the Province of Alberta to the United States. In this capacity, Mar was Alberta's point man for any issue that required the attention of U.S. lawmakers in the Capitol. This included issues such as agriculture and energy. Mar was criticized for accepting his MLA transition package while continuing to work for the government in a paid role.

Indeed, despite his accomplishments and (compared to his old boss) squeaky-clean image, controversy has dogged Mar from time to time. In addition to the severance package, which he initially had deferred and then later accepted while working in Washington, Gary also ran into trouble during this leadership race when one of his booths was photographed offering "Free Memberships" to students. After a few tense hours, the story that came from the Mar camp was that a donor had offered to pay for student memberships, rather than the suggestion that, in contravention of the rules, Mar's campaign was purchasing memberships for people. These whiffs of scandal have also served to remind voters of the Kelly Charlebois issue, when Mar's Ministry (Health & Wellness) awarded a non-tendered contract to Charlebois, Gary's former executive assistant, for "advice" that produced no written record or reports. The cost to taxpayers? A paltry $400,000. What's almost half a million between friends?

Despite criticisms old or new, valid or invalid, Mar has raised an absolute boatload of cash with which to run his campaign. Indeed, while some of his opponents drive their private vehicles to forums, Mar has run a General Election-style campaign, even having his massive and VERY visible orange campaign bus drive to the forum in Fort McMurray while Gary himself flew in days earlier. Mar is said to be spending over a quarter of a million dollars in ads over the next week, and there's probably a lot more than that in reserve for the second ballot, if required.  It's not just money that Gary's swimming in, however - it's also endorsements from sitting PC MLA's. At last count, Gary had the public backing of 26 MLA's, including half of the current cabinet. Conventional wisdom is that Gary should, by all accounts, win this race - and it's a good career move to be backing the guy who wins. This can also be seen in the very polished "fresh-out-of-university-polisci" look & feel of Gary's younger supporters, and their handlers. New executive assistants and caucus researchers and campaign managers will be the order of the day when the new leader takes over. It's unfortunate, because there are a lot of MLA's and young people who genuinely buy Gary's message and support him for all the RIGHT reasons - but they're lumped in with the career climbers.

Mar's messaging has been about "Greatness on purpose, rather than by accident", and he has opined that he feels Albertans today are more inclined to follow visionary leadership like Lougheed's in the 70s, rather than Klein's populism of the 90s.

Policy:

Mar's policies are a bit of a mish-mash on his website. There's a LOT of text, to be sure, but much of it is background. It's also hard to navigate between the "paragraph-style" content, the "bullet point policy steps", the press releases, and the one policy document that was actually in pdf format. The lack of consistency in format, though, doesn't dilute the fact that there's a lot of good stuff in there. Among the highlights:

  • That the federal government designate the building of energy infrastructure to the U.S. Gulf Coast and the West Coast of Canada as a national economic priority and ensure they receive the needed national support to get done.
  • Implement the recommendations of the Alberta Environmental Panel Monitoring Report on environmental monitoring of the oil sands.
  • Work with industry to evaluate the merits sharing the cost of development of roads and other common infrastructure in areas of intense energy development.
  • Ensuring stability in the current royalty regime for conventional oil, natural gas and the oil sands.
  • Remove the discretionary power of Cabinet under Bill 50 to establish Critical Transmission Infrastructure (CTI) requirements and place it with the Legislature where all Parties can debate and approve the action. The need for CTI can also be determined, as it was in the past, by the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC), in full consultation with industry stakeholders and Alberta consumers.
  • Reach out to families and friends of seniors by developing an enhanced caregiver supports program to include respite and elder “day care” components. There are opportunities to build on existing tax credits to ensure that families and friends can stay home to care for their loved ones when it is necessary.
  • Build a common entry point for access to all seniors housing and health services. The Accommodation Standards public reporting website could be built on to include information such as wait times to get into a supportive living or continuing care facility. This website could serve as a portal for information on accommodation costs and services provided.
  • Work with Albertans on preparing for their senior years by encouraging financial planning and wellness initiatives.
  • Establish an independent Alberta Environmental Monitoring Authority with an expert staff. This independent authority will monitor and report on the environmental impacts of developing Alberta’s energy resources, from oil sands to fracing and CO2-enhanced oil recovery.
  • Prohibit bulk water exports.
  • Put the implementation of Bill 36 on hold until a full dialogue has been undertaken on the two existing regional plans (the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan and the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan) and Albertans have time to see how they will be implemented. These first two plans will serve as pilots. Action on further regional plans will not proceed until we get these first two plans right
  • Commit to a comprehensive public review of Alberta’s tax system, with the objectives of enhancing overall productivity, competitiveness, and innovation, creating opportunities for further job creation, and strengthening the capacity of Alberta families to participate in the global economy. This work will commence once the provincial budget is balanced in 2013/14, and a sustainable balance between revenues and expenses has been restored. Tax reductions must be affordable.
  • Work with the federal government to target and fast track skilled workers needed by the Alberta economy, and to remove the cap on immigrants under the Immigrant Nominee Program (INP).
  • Work with the federal government to accelerate the process for foreign credential recognition. 
  • Commit to reducing the number of ministries and ministers. For example, it will put the Treasury Board and Finance and Enterprise ministries back together so that government’s spending, revenue and budget planning work hand in hand once again.
  • Establishing a high school completion rate target of 100 percent, to stretch provincial efforts to ensure students complete high school.
  • Pushing ahead on enhancing the role of schools as “community hubs”, so that parents and families can access various services. Schools, community agencies and service providers work together to deliver services in a coordinated, “wrap-around” approach.
  • Commit to stable and predictable operating funding for schools boards. Stable and predictable funding would allow school jurisdictions to plan ahead and to know how much funding they can count on to implement long term plans and initiatives.
  • Municipalities will be given full access to the education property tax base, effective the 2013 assessment year. K-12 education funding will not impacted.
  • Place greater emphasis on professional development and training opportunities for public servants and make use of various leading edge online, social media and mobile device methods.
  • Place greater emphasis on alternative working relationships and flexible working hours, through such approaches as remote access, to allow public servants to more effectively balance work and family obligations.

The Long & Short Of It:

If you want to know who's going to win a PC Leadership race, you follow the money and the MLA endorsements. Thus goes the conventional wisdom. If this was always the case, though, we'd be on year 6 of Premier Dinning's reign.

Gary has gone to great lengths, and spent a lot of money to get his name and face everywhere he can. His team has put together a masterful campaign. Every city and town he goes through has a guest column penned by the local MLA, talking about why they're supporting Gary. His bus has become a fixture at public events across the province. And yet, for all his talk of "Change", and despite the fact that he wasn't directly tied to the Stelmach regime, Gary is perceived as the "status quo" candidate. In fact, a lot of the PCs I hang around with have expressed the opinion that Gary is the candidate under whom the PC Government would change the LEAST - at least, until election time, when Mar's speaking style - hilariously lampooned by a local pundit in Calgary as "Droopy Dog teaching third grade" - would be put up against Raj Sherman's passion and Danielle Smith's polished libertarian soundbytes.

Mar's team has to use all of the manpower and cash at their disposal to get out the vote on Saturday. The front-runner often sees supporters staying home, on account of victory being all but assured. Gary can't afford to take victory for granted - he knows this, and needs to make sure his supporters know it, as well. But if you're betting money on the most likely winner of this race, you'd be wise to bet Mar.

26 sitting MLA's already have.

Links:

Gary Mar campaign website

Calgary Herald profile and video for Gary Mar




Sunday, September 11, 2011

PC Leadership Candidate Profile - Doug Horner

Legacy.

 
Any story about Doug Horner's rise in politics has to start with the Horner legacy.

 
Doug's grandfather, Ralph, was a Senator for Saskatchewan.  At the time of Doug's birth, his father was the sitting Member of Parliament for Jasper-Edson. Three of his uncles also served as MPs. After 9 years in Ottawa, Horner's father stepped down to try his hand at provincial politics, and served as an MLA for 12 years, first as a member of the 6-strong Official Opposition PC Caucus under young firebrand Peter Lougheed, and later holding cabinet posts as Minister of Agriculture, Minister of Transportation, Minister of Economic Development and Deputy Premier.

 
So, yeah... Doug's got some family connections.

 
All that said, though, Horner seemingly resisted the siren call of political service, opting to strike out on his own as a young man. After following the money to jobs in the oilpatch and at a lumber mill, Horner attended SAIT in Calgary (a stint during which he developed an unfortunate attachment to the Calgary Stampeders), married at age 19 (!) and worked in the financial sector as a banker, as well as in agriculture, where he did sales and marketing for ConAgra in Nebraska for several years. After returning to Alberta, Horner (at age 29) enlisted and served as a Canadian Forces Reservist, fulfilling a lifelong dream. In 2001, at the urging of his MLA (Ken Kowalski) he got into the family business, winning election to the Legislative Assembly, where he has served ever since. After 3 years on the back benches, Doug got the call from Ralph Klein to sit in Cabinet as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, and later had a very successful stint as Minister of Advanced Education and Technology under Ed Stelmach - also serving as the most recent Deputy Premier.

 
Fighting throughout the campaign to get noticed among the flashier and more controversial candidates, Horner has also had to work hard to avoid being stuck with the label "Stelmach 2.0", as many Stemach loyalists have jumped on board the Horner Campaign. Indeed, while Doug spends a great deal of time talking about the things that will change if he wins the leadership, it's worth noting that the cabinet mainstay and former number-2 man on the totem pole has 15 endorsements from sitting MLA's for whom the "old way of doing things" worked out just fine -among them Speaker Ken Kowalski, who replaced Doug's father upon his retirement under Lougheed and will celebrate his 32nd year in the Legislature this November - so, the "Change" motivation is a bit harder to believe in some cases. It's also reportedly a source of frustration that Horner has been painted as a "rural candidate", a characterization reinforced by the fact that of his 15 MLA endorsements, only one - Lindsay Blackett - comes from a constituency within one of Alberta's 2 big cities.

 
Policy:

Horner has released a LOT of policy, making his candidacy a field-day for wonks such as myself. Among the more interesting (to me) policies:

  • Accelerate the development of new technologies that reduce environmental impacts, economic costs and extraction deficiencies;
  • Embrace the social licence given to Alberta to develop our natural resources wisely by protecting the environment and encouraging economic diversification;
  • Develop separate investment and trade strategies for China, India, Mexico, Middle East, and South America;
  • Establish a stable regulatory environment and a planned approach to growth for a vibrant energy sector in Alberta;
  • Give education professionals the tools and resources they need to achieve success for our students. Confront our high school dropout rate with systems and programs that reduce the rate by 10% per year over five years;
  • Reduce the barriers to education by using technology tools and resources that are both scalable and distributable. Let’s become the first jurisdiction to create the virtual text book library for all students K-12;
  • Working with all stakeholders in the system to remove the requirement for doctors to deliver all services face to face in order to bill. Access is the number one issue facing Albertans today and we must open the points of access to health professionals best suited to effectively treat the patient.
  • Collaborating with stakeholders to minimize unnecessary residency requirements for foreign-trained doctors. Establish equivalency programmes with non-Albertan medical schools to recognize training conducted outside our province and country.
  • Enabling health care professionals to practice to the full scope of their training and keep pace with innovations already practiced by several healthcare disciplines. Enable direct payment from the publicly funded system for their services.
  • Establishing meaningful benchmarks for wait list times and offer Albertans options to seek medical care from other providers with the province funding a majority of those costs;
  • Explore increasing coverage and options for Alberta Blue Cross.
  • Introduce engagement opportunities for Senior Citizens to mentor, and participate with youth in the community, including school participation, business mentoring, and other ideas to tap the enormous wealth of knowledge and experience that our elders have;
  • Establish a care-giver tax credit for family members who care for senior citizens who live in their home or nearby;
  • Negotiate an Alberta-specific immigration policy with the federal government in the same manner as Quebec's immigration model, tailored to Alberta’s needs, and is flexible and responsive;
  • Develop foreign academic equivalency programs that allow new graduates in targeted countries to be qualified for work in Alberta upon graduation as opposed to having to be re-qualified once landed in Alberta;
  • Augment temporary foreign worker programs to allow for job transferability and qualification for full citizenship with the timely immigration of family members.
  • Create an Associate Ministry whose focus is on the wellness of all Albertans in sport, fitness and nutrition. Put emphasis on our children, youth, adult and senior-citizen involvement in community-based activity programs;
  • Double the funding for the Alberta Foundation for the Arts over the next three years and establish a basis for long-term planning and funding;
  • Begin discussion with the AUMA and AAMDC on “MSI 2” (Municipal Sustainability Initiative 2) that includes “no strings attached” to up-front funding; a funding model designed to recognize unique challenges of high growth areas and the importance of local decisions. We need to include our Metis settlements in the discussion and the model should also recognize that our two major centres have unique issues;
  • Suspend the implementation of regulations related to the Alberta Land Stewardship Act, until such time as all seven watersheds are fully studied and the implication of water-use is comprehensively understood with regard to the environment and economy;
  • Determine with industry and Albertans, the current and forecast transmission capacity requirements and ensure that transmission line construction meets our anticipated capacity requirements. The final determination of transmission construction should rest with Alberta`s elected officials;
  • Increasing time spent engaging Albertans in home constituencies by elected representatives on matters of importance to Albertans; and
  • Eliminate hiring freezes and other imposed barriers to attracting the best and the brightest into the public service;
  • Provide opportunities for Government of Alberta employees to be engaged in their communities and to contribute to volunteer organizations;
  • Amend the Municipal Government Act to establish four-year terms of elected officials to allow for greater long-term planning;
  • Commit to long-term funding for regional school divisions across the province, each with the authority to deliver services and also to publicly share performance metrics which benchmark and compare performance with the other provincial regions. We must have a funding model that recognizes that some areas and issues are not the same across the Province.
  • Harness the brainpower and feedback of 3.7 million Albertans on a continual basis with online policy forums that promote democracy and engagement across the province;


In particular, Horner has a lot of very interesting policies regarding healthcare and promotion of healthy lifestyles, to address the cause rather than the symptom of ballooning health costs.

  

The Long & Short Of It:

 
In a race with a lot of VERY smart people, it's been suggested that Horner may be the smartest. The problems he runs into are simple politics: He's from the north. He's considered rural. He's tied to the outgoing Premier and administration. Perhaps the most damning criticism of Horner as "Premier material", though, was brought up to me at the Calgary forum: "He's extremely warm in person, like Ed, but he comes across as nerdy and boring at the front of the room, just like Ed, and Danielle's going to eat him for lunch". If the new leader is brilliant and personally warm, but loses the election, then they'll be a brilliant and warm Leader of the Opposition for the 6 months it takes the party to throw them to the wolves and pick someone else to take them to the top of the mountain again. We've seen glances, now and then, of Horner speaking passionately on health and education in particular. We need to see more of that guy in the next week. We need to see the Doug Horner who would stand toe-to-toe with Danielle Smith and Raj Sherman and give as good as he's getting. We need to see Doug Horner the way he is in front of the t.v. when Henry Burris breaks a tackle and streaks down the sideline. Fired up. Passionate. Inspiring. If we see THAT guy over these next 6 days, it might be enough to propel him onto the second ballot.
 
Links:

Doug Horner campaign website

Calgary Herald profile and video for Doug Horner