Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Race for Calgary-Greenway

Calgary Greenway is a new constituency formed in the redistribution, from sections of the former Calgary-Montrose as well as slices of Calgary-Cross and Calgary-McCall. It includes Applewood, Taradale, Coral Springs... just about everything north of 17th Ave. SE and east of 68th St. as far north as 80th Avenue N. The largest slice came from Calgary-Montrose, which was represented by PC Cabinet Minister Manmeet Bhullar, who is seeking election here. This part of the city has a history of political upheaval, with representation from most major parties in the past, and the area is not without its notable political controversies. The best campaign machine usually wins.

The Candidates
Iqtidar Awan (LIB)
Manmeet Bhullar (PC)
Al Brown (NDP)
Ron Leech (WRP)

Iqtidar Awan was originally nominated as the Liberal candidate in Calgary-Northern Hills, but shifted to Greenway. He is an experienced volunteer with the Liberals, but this is his first foray as a candidate. The political scientist and writer lists health care and fiscal responsibility as his 2 main issues. Awan has listed his personal cell phone number on his campaign literature - so he's definitely not insulating himself from voters (a former cabinet minister used to do the same thing - blows my mind. In a good way.)

Manmeet Bhullar was elected in 2008 straight out of law school to represent Calgary-Montrose. At dissolution, he was the youngest MLA in the house, and is the Minister of Service Alberta (ministers hold their portfolios until a new minister is sworn in - even during elections, the bucks needs to stop with an elected official). Bhullar lists the economy and health care as the biggest issues for his community, and in a terrible injustice was named to Avenue Magazine's Top 40 Under 40 in 2011 (over your humble scribe).

Al Brown is an experienced campaigner, having run for the NDP in the 2007 Calgary-Elbow By-Election (3.3%), the 2008 General Election for Calgary-Montrose (6.7%) and in the 2011 Federal election in Calgary-East (14%). The journeyman electrician is hoping that his party's stance on electrical bills will play into his wheel-house, and is a vice-president of the Alberta New Democratic Party. He has run against both his PC and Wildrose opponents before, in Montrose (2008).

Ron Leech was elected the PC Candidate in Calgary-Montrose in 2008, in a race the Party later threw out over allegations of wrongdoing on the part of the local board. Under a cloud of confusion, Leech ran as an Independent in the riding, falling 617 votes shy of victory. The Wildrose Alliance received over 800 votes in that election, so combine those votes with the ones Leech got himself, and Leech is looking like he's a contender in 2012 as the Wildrose candidate. The former pastor has drawn sharp criticism during the campaign for his strong stance against marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Race for Calgary-Fort

Created in 1997, Calgary-Fort has only ever been represented by one man: Wayne Cao, of the PC Party. A largely industrial part of the city, residents of this section of town are among the hardest-working in Calgary, and also the proudest. Even when they have the chance to move elsewhere, many choose to stay because of the unique character of the neighbourhoods. In the redistribution, it gained the downtown communities of Ramsay (from Egmont) and East Village (from Buffalo).

The Candidates:
Said Abdulbaki (LIB)
Wayne Cao (PC)
Janice Dixon (EVG)
Jeevan Mangat (WRP)
Don Monroe (NDP)

Said Abdulbaki may be better known to some readers as "The Sheik" - a character he portrayed on Stampede Wrestling. The businessman and pizza impresario was a Wildrose regional director for southern Alberta and ran for the party in Calgary-Montrose in 2008. After failing to secure the Chestermere-Rockyview nomination last year for Wildrose, he switched to the Liberals, listing Pierre Trudeau as a political hero of his (I'm sure that was a popular view in his former party. In wrestling, they call that a "heel turn").

Wayne Cao was elected MLA here in 1997, and the popular myth is that you can't build a garage in your back yard in Ogden or Dover without Cao showing up to cut the ribbon and celebrate (and sing). The IT Professional previously had a long career with Shell Canada before being elected. He lists healthcare, the economy, and social assistance as key areas of importance for the riding. His political hero is Abraham Lincoln - wonder if he's going to see this?

Janice Dixon is a graduate of the University of Toronto, where she majored in political science and international development. The well-travelled Dixon feels that redevelopment and urbanization are big issues in Calgary-Fort, which includes the soon-to-be-overhauled East Village area.

Jeevan Mangat is a graduate of Lord Beaverbrook High School in Calgary - but nobody's perfect (Go Grandin!). He went on to earn a civil engineering degree from U of C, and also ran a family restaurant. He is currently a commercial property manager, and places heavy emphasis on fiscal discipline being required in Edmonton. He won the nomination here that was triggered when the previously nominated candidate, Bob McInnis, withdrew in mid-2011.

Don Monroe is a City of Calgary employee and union organizer who fosters people with special needs in his home. An active member of the Metis Association of Alberta, Monroe lists health care access and public funding as his biggest issue. His roots are in Forest Lawn.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Free Votes

Nation, I love the idea of free votes. I think every vote in the Legislature should be a free vote - if a bill or motion can't pass on its own merits, it shouldn't pass. If a government can't win a confidence motion without invoking party discipline, it should fall. It's that simple - MLA's should serve their constituents first, and all Alberta second, and their private, members-only club we call a "political party" not at all. (I also think every vote should be recorded, but it's only 2012 - we don't yet have the technology, apparently, to write down who voted "yes" and who voted "no" on every question. We're busy people.)

However, a Twitter conversation this morning about free votes spurred me to do a bit of research...

A notable PC MLA in south-east Calgary stated, in the Legislative Assembly while in defense of the bill they introduced targeting drinking & driving:
"It is clear that more can be done to address this problem and stop unnecessarily placing the lives of Albertans at risk. If this were Utopia, the federal government would have invoked a zero tolerance in the Criminal Code long ago... This Assembly cannot change the Criminal Code. It is out of our jurisdiction. What we can do is write our own traffic laws in the interest of public safety. This is what my bill does. It prevents drivers who blow over .05 BAC to the legal limit from driving for 24 hours. It is very simple. It is a reasonable request, and it is the right thing to do."
Later on:
"(the bill) is not going to take drivers with a BAC of .05 to .08 and lock them away and throw away the key. It simply takes a driver who is a danger to public safety and removes his or her driving privileges for 24 hours. What (the bill) is saying is that drinking and driving hurts everyone involved, so just don’t do it. Having a 24-hour suspension is certainly going to make anyone think about it before they drive having had a couple, because in fact many impaired driving accidents happen after only a couple. This legislation will work in keeping drinking drivers off the road, making our roads safer for all Albertans. Having a licence suspension for 24 hours for drivers in that range is a small initiative that will pay huge dividends by saving the lives of Albertans."
Pretty standard fare, coming from Solicitor General Jonathan Denis in defence of Bill 26, the "0.05 Law".

Only problem is: Those words aren't being spoken by Jonathan Denis.

They're being spoken by Heather Forsyth, the PC MLA for Calgary-Fish Creek, on November 15th, 2000 to support her Private Member's Bill 210: The Traffic Safety Amendment Act (2000).

If you replace "24 hours" with "72 hours", it's the same Bill that Denis and the PC Government passed last December to curtail drunk driving.

One wonders how Forsyth feels about this piece of literature being distributed in Calgary-Acadia, just across Anderson Road from her own constituency, by fellow Wildrose candidate Richard Jones.

If a Wildrose Government will, as Jones contends, "overturn the 'one-drink-no-driving' .05 law... that turns every day Albertans into criminals", I expect that, as the Wildrose advocates for free votes, Forsyth would oppose this step in the Legislature. After all... 11 years ago, she didn't just SUPPORT a 0.05 law - she INTRODUCED it. It was HER BILL. It was "the right thing to do", and was going to "save the lives of Albertans".

On December 6, 2011, Bill 26 came up for Third Reading, the final step before a Bill gets sent for Royal Assent (when it becomes law).

Forsyth, now the Whip for a Wildrose Party that says it believes in free votes, voted against.

I guess the people of Calgary-Fish Creek told her that the extra 48 hours of suspension was too high a price to pay to save lives.

Jones says that the Wildrose believes you should be allowed to drive without repercussions at 0.05 BAC.

Forsyth said in 2000 that taking drivers at 0.05 BAC off the road would save lives. Which seems to fly in the face of what Jones says is the policy of a Wildrose Government.

And in 2011, given a chance to prove her commitment to take what she had labelled life-risking drivers off the road and show her commitment to the principle of free votes, Forsyth instead voted along party lines and against Bill 26.

Actions speak louder than words.

So much for the Wildrose commitment to free votes.

p.s. - And YES, Wildrose supporters - I know the PC's are just as bad a lot of the time. But "Vote Wildrose - we're no worse than the PCs" isn't the slogan I've been hearing. If you're going to campaign on the notion of being better, more noble, and more democratic - you have to BE those things.

The Race for Calgary-Elbow

First formed in 1971, Calgary-Elbow has had 4 MLAs in the past 40 years - and 2 of them became Premier. One other became Deputy Premier. Pretty good odds, by any measure. Formerly held by PC's David Russell and Ralph Klein, the constituency elected Liberal Craig Cheffins in a by-election to replace Klein before electing Alison Redford narrowly in 2008. The redistribution has seen significant changes to the boundaries, with many communities leaving the constituency, and some new ones added from Calgary-Currie. The large-scale changes to the make-up of the riding and the close result in 2008 are making some wonder if Redford, now PC Leader and Premier, can hold onto her own seat.

The Candidates:
Beena Ashar (LIB)
Greg Clark (AP)
James Cole (WRP)
Craig Coolahan (NDP)
William Hamilton (EVG)
Alison Redford (PC)

Beena Ashar ran unsuccessfully for Alderman in Ward 5 in 2010, finishing 3rd. The community fundraiser and prolific volunteer has been active on political campaigns for quite some time. Her issues include public safety and fiscal responsibility. Ashar was the final candidate named by the Alberta Liberals for this election. At this time, she does not have a campaign website.

Greg Clark is an entrepreneur born and raised in Calgary-Elbow, and a founding partner at C3 Associates, one of Alberta's fastest growing companies for several years running. Clark - who also teaches Business Management at the University of Calgary - is all about vision: Long-term planning over short-term political promises. He has a series of 10 videos on his website, featuring his opinions on everything from health care to conscience rights to democratic reform.

James Cole moved his family from Ontario to Alberta in 2006 to follow his love of politics and to capitalize on the Alberta Advantage. The Chartered Financial Analyst is the treasurer for the local Calgary CFA Society (it's got to take serious stones to be the treasurer for a group of CFA's). Cole is a firm believer in fiscal discipline, something he says the current government lacks.

Craig Coolahan is a technical writer and union activist for the United Utility Workers' Association. A New Democrat running where New Democrats are routinely thrashed, Coolahan is an advocate for affordable child care and affordable housing. He became a new father last December.

William Hamilton is a communications consultant and founding partner of Principia Communications Strategies. He's also the only candidate (from anywhere in Calgary) to routinely send press releases to bloggers such as yours truly. William had a bit of fun on April Fool's Day, issuing a release that he had appointed an Ent as Campaign Manager (Ents, naturally, are far too methodical to last long on a 28-day campaign). He ran for the federal Green in 2011, capturing 11% support in Calgary-Centre. His major issues are sustainability and public transit.

Alison Redford was elected here in 2008 by a margin of 419 votes. The lawyer and mother to 10-year old Sarah was elected Leader of the PC Party in October of 2011, and sworn in as Premier of Alberta a week later. Alberta's first female Premier, she is a graduate of Bishop Carroll High School in Calgary - but nobody's perfect (Go Grandin!). You may have heard her name a few times during this election. I interviewed Redford, a noted carnivore, at a local BBQ restaurant during her bid for the PC Leadership - follow this link to hear said interview.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Race for Calgary-East

Calgary-East, not to be confused with the federal constituency of the same name, was formed in 1993 (a previous riding named Calgary East had been around in the 60's). It includes the communities of Vista Heights, Rundle, Marlborough, and Mayland Heights. Entrepreneurship and blue collar concerns carry a lot of weight as issues here. Many residents are first-or-second generation Canadians, although voter turn-out tends to be below average (families that come to Canada from elsewhere are more likely, generally, to vote than those who have been here for many generations - they haven't yet learned to view democracy as a nuisance rather than a blessing). For the past 19 years, the riding has been represented by Progressive Conservative Moe Amery.

The Candidates:
Ali Abdulbaki (LIB)
Moe Amery (PC)
Bonnie Devine (Communist)
Robyn Luff (NDP)
Jasbir (Jesse) Minhas (WRP)

Ali Abdulbaki does not have a campaign website, and information about him is fairly thin on the internet. Assuming that I've found the right one, then: He is in his late 20's, is a Jersey Shore fan, and someone on his campaign might have wanted to tell him to make his Facebook page a little more "fit for public consumption" before running for office.

Moe Amery has represented this area as MLA since 1993. The former realtor and father of 5 moved to Canada as a 20-year old and came to Calgary shortly after. Amery has never been shy to step out and state the position of his constituents, even when they don't jibe with PC Party policy. Pre-writ, Moe served on 4 committees, including (along with 20 other MLA's) the infamous "No-Meet Committee".

Bonnie Devine is a former mayoral candidate in Calgary, and ran in this riding provincially for the Alberta Communist Party in 2004 and again in 2008. An outspoken activist and critic of Calgary's small but well-publicized White Pride movement, Devine's home was broken into several years ago and her husband beaten in an effort to silence them. Her party platform includes the institution of a 32-hour work week with no reduction in pay, and doubling the minimum wage.

Robyn Luff is a math and science teacher (grade 8), and avid community volunteer. The NDP runs in her veins - her grandfather ran for the party in the 1960's. The bulldog owner lists the cost of living as one of her major concerns, touching on tuition fees, daycare costs, medication for seniors and electricity rates as costs that need controlling.

Jasbir (Jesse) Minhas was educated in India and then spent years working his way up to the Canadian Dream: From CP Rail, to Calgary Transit, to finally opening his own convenience store. Minhas has been politically active for over 20 years, and currently works as a real estate consultant, helping local businesses find new homes. He lists health care as the largest issue facing the riding.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Alberta Leaders' Debate Drinking Game

Every time there is a political Leaders' Debate, the minuscule minority that is the "politically engaged all-the-time" populace jokes that there should be a drinking game associated with the debate.

Followers of the Alberta General Election, rejoice - The National Post has actually produced one. Seriously.


Watch for myself, Dave Cournoyer and Jeff Hank to be live-blogging on the Global website during the Leaders' Debate, which runs from 6:30 to 8:00 on Thursday night.

I'm not calling it the "All Leaders' Debate", as Glenn Taylor of the Alberta Party has been excluded on the basis that his party did not have any MLA's at dissolution who had been elected as Alberta Party candidates. Taylor is making lemonade from the situation, and will be responding to the debate, in real-time, on his party's website.

In terms of the debate itself, expect fireworks, but no knock-outs. These leaders will all be too well prepared to allow themselves to be taken seriously off-message.

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith is playing the "lowering expectations" game, pointing out that her opponents have all been MLA's and have political debate experience. The reality, though, is that this will be an exercise in televised messaging as much as anything else - and Smith, as a former television journalist, should be the MOST comfortable person on-stage Thursday night. If she doesn't clearly distinguish herself as the winner, it will be a major disappointment.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Just Say "No", Danielle...

Nation, as you've no doubt heard by now, Danielle Smith is getting a bit of flack over past positions she and her party have expressed.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, really - and I don't feel that it does. Everyone knew that, if polls suggested a possible Wildrose victory, the media, political opponents and common voters alike would start to take a good, long look at what (and who) they were being asked to vote for. It's our democratic "due diligence".

A growing list of Wildrose candidates are having past statements, associations, and business dealings dredged up. Which is not only fair politics, it's the way the system is supposed to work. If politicians in office are crooked or have appalling personal views, someone's supposed to expose them. If politicians STRIVING for office are crooked or have appalling personal views, someone's supposed to expose that, too. It's part of asking the public to make an informed choice.

This post isn't about those candidates, though. This post is about Danielle.

We've spent the last 6 months being told by Danielle and the Wildrose Party how Alison Redford "feels" about issues. About how, regardless of what she does or says, she "doesn't care" about this, or she "wants" to do that. Her party's policies on the issue be damned. Her stated position on the issue be damned. We, the Wildrose Party, know what's in Alison's heart on this issue, and we're going to tell you about it.

Now, that's either okay... or it's not. We're each going to make up our own minds about that. But clearly, Wildrose and Danielle think it's okay, or they wouldn't be doing it.

The Wildrose Party is in favour of binding, citizen-initiated referendae. Supporters say this is the essence of democracy. Detractors say it's a way to get controversial issues brought forward, without having to sully the hands of the governing party by taking a stand on the issue. Both points are valid ones. When the notion of such a referendum being brought forward to de-list abortion in Alberta came up this week, Danielle responded like so:
"The advice I’ve been given from legal scholars is that there are certain issues that would be offside with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms... This is the reason why it has to go to a judge. Because we can’t be having public referenda on things that can’t be instituted."

Which is true. Except, what if the referendum question was "Should Alberta invoke the Notwithstanding Clause to..."? Then, the BINDING referendum would NOT be offside with the Charter. Which means it would be allowed under that standard. And, if it passed, it would become law in Alberta.

Here's the thing, though: When she does this dance around de-listing abortion, or conscience rights, Danielle repeatedly goes out of her way to NOT say how she personally feels about the issue. It's something the media have started to notice. The same (liberal, eastern, elite, lamestream) media who have been fawning all over Danielle for months and crapping on Alison Reford's every sentence are using phrases like "Smith dodged the question". That's not good. We're being told "My personal opinions don't matter, the Party's policies are this...".

Okay. Sounds reasonable.

Just one problem, though...

We've spent the last 6 months having it crammed down our throats by Danielle and the Wildrose how Alison Redford, that mean evil nanny-state tax-and-spend ghost of Joe Clark elitist human rights lawyer FEELS about every issue that comes up. What's in her heart. Not what she says, or what her party's policy is, but how she feels, in her heart, about an issue. THAT'S the important thing, and the Wildrose somehow knows what she truly feels, and they're going to tell us about it.

So...  how Alison Redford personally feels about an issue is of paramount importance. But... how Danielle Smith personally feels about an issue isn't relevant?

There's more, though. Danielle, Vitor, and the braintrust at Wildrose HQ know we're not stupid. They know we see the dissonance between what they tell us we should expect of Alison and what they tell us we're entitled to from Danielle. In fact, they're counting on it...  because they know someone ELSE sees that dissonance, too.

The same special interests who would be spearheading the push to de-list abortion in Alberta. The same groups that would be pushing to codify conscience rights. Danielle isn't saying what she thinks, because she wants those people to think she's with them, and "obviously, she can't come right out and say it...  but we know she's one of us. So we'll vote for her, and donate our money and time."

She wants to reap the reward, without taking the risk of endorsing the viewpoint publicly.

She's playing COY with them.

So Danielle, here's my challenge to you: Just say "NO".

Don't give us "This is a divisive issue, and we don't discuss those". Don't come at us with "That sort of thing wouldn't withstand a Charter challenge". And spare us the insufferable "We won't legislate on that", because if it's passed by a referendum you'll be obligated by your own law TO legislate on it. You know it, and we know it. You'll try to distance yourself from it afterwards - JUST far enough to make it clear it wasn't your idea. But you'll take the support, and the votes, from the special interests who were behind the effort. and because they got their way, you'll take that support and those votes in the next election, too. And the one after that.

Say "NO", Danielle.

We keep getting told what a great communicator you are. Get in front of a bank of cameras, look dead centre into the biggest one, and say "I am not in favour of de-listing abortion. This issue has been dealt with by the courts, and I say NO. I say it as Danielle Smith, private citizen. I say it as Danielle Smith, Leader of the Wildrose Party. We will not entertain referendae on this issue. If you are someone who is going to support me or my party based on the belief that a Wildrose Government will provide a way to get this legislated, I want you to stay home and not send us money. I don't want your vote, if to get it I have to pretend to be in favour of this issue."

THAT would be courage. THAT would be leadership. And you know what? No member of the media would ask you about it, EVER AGAIN. It would put the issue to bed, forever.

Right now, with this "we have no plans on this, that was an old policy book our staffer was reading from, we don't discuss those things", it looks for all the world like you're playing coy to get the votes and bucks from the special interest groups, without having to take a position that would make some people think twice about voting for you.

What you personally think about this MATTERS, Danielle. It matters, because of the standards you've spent six months setting for Alison Redford. And every day that goes by without you making it 100% clear where you stand, and risking some support by taking a solid and clear position, you're seeming less like the "kicking butt and taking names, second-coming-of-Ralph Klein" Danielle Smith we were told was coming to save us as Albertans, and more like THIS guy:

"I'm Jerry Boyle, and if you can mark an X, you're my kind of people!"

The Race for Calgary-Buffalo

Created in 1971, Calgary-Buffalo is a classic "downtown urban" constituency - high-density housing, demanding campaigns that think outside-the-box in terms of contact with voters, and a committed self-interest that makes for unpredictable election results. The redistribution has resulted in the loss of the area west of 14th Street, which had been among some of the strongest areas of support for incumbent Liberal Kent Hehr. Before Hehr's election in 2008, the riding had been held for 2 terms by the PCs, and by several Liberals for a combined 15 years before that.

Buffalo includes everything from ritzy glass-walled condo towers to 85 year-old houses in Victoria Park. The most pressing issues tend to vary from election to election, but in the last 10 years or so crime and law-and-order are often near the top of the list.

The Candidates:
Mike Blanchard (WRP)
Rebecca Eras (NDP)
Kent Hehr (LIB)
Jamie Lall (PC)
Cory Mack (AP)

Mike Blanchard is a popular former host with CHQR AM770 in Calgary. Contrary to the perception of some of the other hosts on QR, Blanchard tends more to the "active listener" description - you get the feeling you're the only person in the room when you're talking to him, he's so focused on what you have to say. A U of C grad in communications and political science, Blanchard has been beating the drum for the Wildrose in Calgary on the issues of health care and municipal affairs - both of which may be issues that could catch fire in Buffalo.

Rebecca Eras is a PR consultant with deep ties to the NDP. She worked on Jack Layton's leadership bid for the federal New Democrats in 2003. Her professional focus has been on youth issues, renewable energy and sustainability. She lists affordable housing as one of the most pressing issues in Calgary-Buffalo.

Kent Hehr's story reads like the stuff of fiction: Confined to a wheelchair after being struck by gunfire during a drive-by shooting, he went on to earn his law degree at U of C and beat the odds to capture this seat, which had been Tory Blue for the 8 years prior. You half expect him to be exposed at some point as a costumed crime-fighter, patrolling the streets by moonlight. He dabbled with a mayoral bid in 2010 before pulling out and throwing his support to Naheed Nenshi's ultimately successful bid. Hehr is the Deputy Leader of the Liberals in the Alberta Legislature, and has earned universal respect from all sides of the political spectrum for his tireless efforts to improve his community.

Jamie Lall is a first-generation Canadian, living the Canadian Dream. A graduate of the U of C in political science, Lall is heavily involved with the non-profit sector - particularly with Prospect Human Services, a group geared towards finding adults with disabilities meaningful and inclusive workplaces. Lall is young and energetic, which he's going to need if he wants to knock off the popular incumbent AND his media celebrity challenger. Lall was unsuccessful in an attempt to win the hotly-contested PC nomination in Calgary-McCall, but was subsequently appointed by the party to run in Buffalo.

Cory Mack is an entertainer and artist, well known as a gifted comedic mind and stand-up (if that doesn't send warning signs to her fellow candidates ahead of all-candidates' forums, it should). Mack is also a support worker for developmentally-disabled adults. Unbelievably (in a good way), Cory actually has a list of her fellow candidates in Calgary-Buffalo, along with web links, on her own webpage. I'm just in awe of this approach - it's showing the courage of your convictions to stand by your principles even when it's politically disadvantageous to do so. Whether or not she's the next MLA for Calgary-Buffalo, Mack - and her Alberta Party - are showing that they're not your grand-daddy's politicians. They're raising the level of the game, and making it about more than just winning. And that's a good thing that we need more of, in my opinion.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Race for Banff-Cochrane

Banff-Cochrane has existed in one form or another as a constituency since 1940. Long a bastion for independent thinkers, the voters here have never been scared to buck the trend - they've elected independent candidates 3 times, and once elected a "coalition Progressive Conservative/Liberal" candidate (in 1959, as one of only 4 constituencies in Alberta not to elect a Social Credit candidate). Federally, the area sees a significant amount of support for the Green Party, while still electing Conservatives. The area has been represented by retiring Progressive Conservative Janis Tarchuk since 1997.

There are a lot of ranchers in the area, and forestry is a major employer as well. Cochrane, in addition to having the best ice cream on Earth (MacKay's, for the un-initiated), is something of a bedroom community for northwest Calgary, though the growth of the town and its commercial base has more and more residents working within Cochrane itself. Canmore, Banff, the Kananaskis Village and Bragg Creek are also communities within the riding, with their own unique challenges and concerns.

The Candidates:
Ron Casey (PC)
Tom Copithorne (WRP)
Pete Helfrich (LIB)
Jamie Kleinsteuber (NDP)

Ron Casey is the long-time Mayor of Canmore, and was most recently re-elected in 2010 with 53.1% of the vote. An electrician by trade, Casey is also a 4th-degree black belt in karate - making him officially the "Baddest Man on the Ballot" (Trudeau's next challenger, perhaps?). The popular Casey, who has lived in Canmore for nearly 40 years, defeated Cochrane Mayor Truper McBride (among others) in a hotly-contested PC nomination. The freshly-minted grandfather lists health care, seniors housing, and property rights among his priorities.

Tom Copithorne is one of the "Jumping Pound Copithornes", a family that has become synonymous with the area that they settled and continue to ranch to this day. If you've driven Highway 1 to Banff or Canmore over the past year, you'd know Copithorne land as "the parcel with the big, Danielle Smith-covered trailer parked on it". A relative, Clarence Copithorne, was elected as an independent in 1967 and later served as Lougheed's Minister of Highways, playing a key role in the creation of Kananaskis Country. Tom is a former rodeo cowboy, who recently became a proud granfather (noticing a pattern?) and has run his own ranch in the area since 1977.

Pete Helfrich is a Bragg Creek native and long-time paramedic. He cites his work with the Stoney First Nation as the catalyst for his political involvement. He lists environment, health care and education as his 3 top priorities. It was not clear, as of press time, if he had any young grandchildren (see above).

Jamie Kleinsteuber is a graduate of the University of Ottawa, with degrees in Canadian history, public policy and management. He lives in Cochrane, and wants to boost the tourism potential of the Bow River Valley. He lists his largest concern, though, as electricity prices. At 35, Jamie almost certainly doesn't have any grandchildren (though, you never know...)

All-Candidates' Forums will be held in:

Bragg Creek - Wednesday, April 11
7-9 pm, Bragg Creek Community Centre

Canmore - Tuesday, April 17
7-9:30 pm, Location TBD

Banff - Thursday, April 19
7-9 pm, Banff Mountain Park Lodge 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Race for Airdrie

A new constituency built from the former Airdrie-Chestermere, this riding includes not just its namesake community but also the areas north and west. Rob Anderson was elected here as a Progressive Conservative in 2008. Carol Haley, also a PC, represented the area from 1993 to 2008.

Home to a burgeoning bedroom community and large homesteads, Airdrie is a study in contrasts. Roads, policing, and character are all likely to be ballot questions.

As I'll be physically IN this constituency on Election Day for a completely unrelated matter, I'll be posting updates throughout the day based on what I'm hearing from the locals.

The Candidates:
Rob Anderson (WRP)
Kelly Hegg (PC)
Jeff Willerton (Ind.)
Bryan Young (NDP)

Rob Anderson was elected the MLA for Airdrie-Chestermere as a Progressive Conservative in 2008, with 63% of the vote. Less than 2 years later, after being left out of a cabinet shuffle, he crossed the floor with much fanfare to the Wildrose Alliance. He has developed a reputation for being a particularly dogged critic of the government since joining the opposition benches (his undergraduate degree was in Communications, from BYU), and is said to be a very ambitious young man regarding his future in his new party.

Kelly Hegg has served as an Alderman on Airdrie City Council since 2004. The school principal is an active volunteer with his church, and rounded off his Education degree with an MA in Administration. He has 2 teenagers, so it might be a favour to get him a job in Edmonton (if they're anything like the Teenaged Savage was). He defeated former Airdrie Mayor Linda Bruce for the PC nomination.

Jeff Willerton was a candidate for the Wildrose Alliance party leadership in 2009. He has run for office 5 times before, including against Rob Anderson in Airdrie-Chestermere as the Wildrose candidate in 2008, finishing 2nd with 16% of the vote. The author and conservative firebrand wrote a noteworthy letter in his pursuit of the Wildrose crown - including interesting opinions and insight into gay marriage, abortion, and Danielle Smith.

Bryan Young ran in Airdrie-Chestermere for the NDP in 2008 - less than a year after graduating from high school - and finished 5th, with 4% of the vote. Marty Lawrence did a great interview with the candidate, on discoverairdrie.com. Young's biggest issues are health, education, and raising energy royalties.

As of press time, the Liberals, EverGreen Party and Alberta Party had not nominated candidates for Airdrie.

An all-candidates forum is scheduled for Monday, April 16 from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the Bert Church Theatre - 1010 East Lake Blvd.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Hamilton Bows Down To Special Interests in Calgary-Elbow

Nation, I've never made a big secret of my distaste for the way that well-funded special interests can buy their way into the democratic process.

Sure enough, not even the EverGreen campaign of William Hamilton in Calgary-Elbow is immune to the siren call of big-money special interests. I imagine it's no surprise that the radical environmental group from whom Hamilton has drawn his new Campaign Manager is targeting Elbow, the home riding of PC Leader Alison Redford.

For shame, William. I thought you were better than that. Hamilton's press release is below.



Calgary-Elbow EverGreen candidate praises Treebeard's "deep roots" in EverGreen movement

CALGARY, 01 April 2012 -- After a careful and exhaustive selection process, William Hamilton has appointed the ideal campaign manager for his EverGreen campaign in Calgary-Elbow -- an Ent.

"Perhaps no position in an electoral campaign is as important to supporting a candidate as the position of campaign manager," said William Hamilton, the EverGreen Party of Calgary-Elbow, of Treebeard.  "Really, I'm surprised that no-one else running for office in Alberta has gotten around to hiring someone of Treebeard's stature and prominence in the Ent community to run their campaign.  In fact, given Treebeard's record of conservation and forest stewardship, out of anyone who has become a member of the EverGreens, he has -- if you'll forgive my saying it -- the deepest roots in the movement."

"Let me re-affirm, as concisely as it is in my power to render such an important and critical statement, how profoundly and remarkably pleasing it is to be able to offer my experience, my wisdom, and my keen and finely-honed understanding of the interconnectivity of our forests and our society to the William Hamilton EverGreen campaign for Calgary-Elbow," added Treebeard.  "For the first time in my perambulatory sojourns through the wilderness arising from the passing of Middle Earth, I have been granted the indescribably pleasant opportunity to contribute a level of understanding to the political process in Alberta to a campaign and a candidate that well and truly appreciate the majesty of nature in their daily peregrinations.  Orcs have never demonstrated this capacity in all of the millennia in which I have encountered them, and I only accepted this categorically crucial role in the William Hamilton EverGreen campaign for Calgary-Elbow after coming to the careful, definite, and defensible conclusion that he was not, in fact, an Orc."

"Orc behaviour is inconsistent with EverGreen values, anyway," added Hamilton. Lest concerned observers forget, the dateline of this release and the first letter of each sentence both have a bearing on the content.

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