Thursday, November 20, 2014

Put Your Money Where My Mouth Is...

Nation, back in late 2012 a few of us Alberta political blogger-types threw together a taco eating contest for charity, which we dubbed "#ablegcares". Through the pledges we collected from our respective party supporters, as well as an anonymous donor who matched every donation dollar-for-dollar, we raised in the neighbourhood of $10,000 for Inn From The Cold, a Calgary charity whose mission is "To provide emergency shelter, support and programs to homeless children, their families and others in need, with the goal of building healthy, stable families and ending homelessness."

Well, here we go again.

My friend Shane Byciuk of Calgary Rants has taken up the mantle of organizing the event this year, and he has broadened the scope to include not just politicos of every stripe, but also representatives of Calgary/s non-political social media folk, including my wingman Cory Chapdelaine, podcaster Kevin Olenick, and stomach-with-legs Kyle "the Pancake Breakfast Guy" MacQuarrie.

The food being eaten this year has changed as well, as a reflection of Alberta's rich eastern European history. Our intrepid eaters will be chowing down on... well, there are about a hundred spellings, but I'm going with "pyrogy". If that's at all unclear, they look like this:

(actual pyrogy being consumed may be smaller than the one in the photo)
... and they're delicious. 

Here's where we need your help:

The entire concept of this fundraiser is simplicity itself: You choose an eater to support (might I suggest Joey Oberhoffner?) and pledge an amount per pyrogy (50 cents? A buck or two?) or a flat, straight donation (any amount helps). Challenge your friends to do the same, with the eater of THEIR choice. What makes it fun is that you can toss good-natured jibes at your friends who support other political parties, while watching some of us plow through plates of pyrogy, knowing it's all in good fun and going to a TERRIFIC cause. $600 raised enables Inn From The Cold to provide a meaningful and safe Christmas to a family of four who would otherwise be, literally, out in the cold.


Go to this link, and pledge your support. Check back often, and if you see your eater of choice falling behind, see if you can help them out. Spread the word via social media, too - there are links right on the page. It ultimately doesn't matter which political party wins bragging rights for the year, or which eater gets to take home the coveted "Golden Perogy" trophy (yes, seriously) - all that matters is that we're raising as much money as possible to support families who have next to nothing.

As of press time, pledges to your humble scribe's efforts include $300 straight donation (just for showing up), as well as $31 per pyrogy eaten, which puts me in fourth place behind Marc Doll of the Alberta Party, Vincent St. Pierre of the Alberta Liberals, and Derrick Jacobson of the Wildrose Party. My goal is to sit down next Wednesday night with NO LESS THAN $100 PER PYROGY pledged for my efforts. I know my fellow PC's won't let the cause down.

For details on the event, which is open to all and will be "live tweeted", check out Shane's blog over at Calgary Rants.

Savage, 10-35.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Total Recall

Nation, the Wildrose came out today with a plan to improve accountability and transparency in government. There's a lot of good stuff in there - which I'll leave some of their much-ballyhooed "100 bloggers" to expound upon.

I want to talk about the crown jewel of the proposal, though: Recall Legislation.

Wildrose proposes that they would legislate that if 20% of a constituency's electorate were to sign a petition within a 3-month span, the constituency's MLA would be recalled, forcing a by-election.

This is, to put it plainly, a gawdawful idea, based on a solid principle.

The principle is "the people should be able to fire their MLA if they go off the rails in between elections". It's a good principle. The problem with recall legislation is always "where do you set the bar?". If you set the threshold too high, it will NEVER happen, thus negating any possibility of actually recalling anyone, rendering the law moot. If you set it too LOW,  you can end up in a state of "perpetual recall", where voters unhappy with the result of their most recent election can force by-elections over and over, in perpetuity. Unless you add to the law that a constituency can only do this once in between elections - which takes away the right of the voter to fire their representative mid-term...  and so on and so forth. It becomes a vicious cycle, with each by-election costing over $100,000 in taxpayer dollars.

The Wildrose proposal is that the bar be set at 20% of the eligible voters in a constituency. For most of Alberta, that means a little under 7,000 voters signing the petition. It wouldn't matter how many of the remaining 28,000 voters (on average) were happy or indifferent.

So let's say you just ran a hard campaign in a suburban Edmonton riding, and the winner got 5,000 votes, compared to your candidate's 4,800 and the third-place party's 4,200. You know the party that won spent every dime they had, but you and the third-place finisher still have cash, and a group of hungry and motivated volunteers who believe they can make up the gap. If you can get together with the third-place candidate over a beer and agree that either of you would be better than the jerk who won, you can track down your voters, get them to sign on the dotted line, and send people right back to the polls. In some cases, in a different riding, all you'd need is your OWN voters to sign in order to break that 20% threshold.

Using the 2012 Alberta General Election results as a guide, under the 20% rule, 6 MLA's could have been recalled and forced to step down or run another campaign, based only on the signatures of people who voted for the 2nd-place finisher. This would have been the case in Highwood, where John Barlow's voters could have recalled Danielle Smith the day after the election, were this rule in place. Another FIFTY-FOUR MLA's could have been recalled if a combination of their opponent's voters got together and signed the petition, unhappy with the election's result.

That's 60. Sixty out of Alberta's 87 MLA's could have been recalled, even if they hadn't done anything wrong besides "winning instead of my preferred candidate". And this is just assuming that the old adage "decisions are made by those who show up" holds true, and we're only courting people who cared enough to vote in the General Election for their signatures. If you were to go after non-voters it gets even easier to hit the magic 20% threshold, though non-voters would likely only start to care if the person who won election actually DID start to go off the rails.

I'm a big fan of democratic reform that makes sense. Our elected officials need to be held accountable to the people who elect them, and "once every four years" might have been practical in the horse-and-buggy days, but things move fast in the 21st century. Remember the 77% approval rating Alison Redford got from her own party only a year ago? It'd probably be a little lower these days.

What I DON'T want to see, though, is MLA's so consumed with the fear of being recalled that they're unable to do their jobs. Skipping QP to spend extra time in their constituency because someone with an axe to grind is handing out a petition. Voting exclusively along the lines of popular opinion in their constituency with no regard for the ROB (Rest Of Alberta), because if they support a policy that benefits all Albertans but is locally unpopular they could be out of a job. In a constant state of fundraising, fearing that they need 2 elections worth of money in the bank at any one time just in case.

This is how the American system, with its recalls and Primary races, turns well-intentioned candidates into little more than fundraising machines after the election, taking calls from lobbyists and "issue-focused donors" all day, spitting out votes and speeches designed purely to hold off challenges to their office, rather than focusing on governing in the best interests of all. A party or interest group with 7,000 names on a contact list and bags and bags of money could conceivably tie up an MLA they consider a "problem" for YEARS with repeated recalls, until that MLA either quit out of exhaustion, or ran out of money to fight the by-elections.

Protect whistleblowers? Absolutely. Limit severance and bonuses? For sure. Free votes? Hell yes.

But if every second you're in office you're in fear of losing your seat if you stand your ground on a righteous but locally contentious issue - or, for that matter, just an issue a well-organized lobby group has a vested interest in - how free a vote IS it, really?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Govern Yourselves Accordingly

Just a quick hit as I sit waiting for my oil change today, Nation.

In a little over 80 hours, we will start to get by-election results in Edmonton-Whitemud, Calgary-West, Calgary-Foothills and Calgary-Elbow. 

These last 80 hours are "crunch time". Elections are won and lost in these last 3 days. Senior members of every campaign, and the candidates themselves, pull out all the stops. They forego sleep. They scramble, work every angle, fight for every last vote. As they should.

But a reminder to those campaigns, candidates and parties, that is always valid at this time of year but especially in light of recent events in Quebec and Ottawa:

Brave men and women have died to secure and defend your right to contest these elections, and appear on a ballot. Even during crunch time, ask yourself: "Is this behaviour worthy of their sacrifice? Would they be proud that their sacrifice enabled this campaign?"

I sincerely hope that the answer is "yes". And if you're being honest with yourself, and the answer is "no", it's never too late to turn things around.

It's crunch time.

Govern yourselves accordingly.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Just Win, Baby

Nation, as you're no doubt aware by now, the "silly season" is upon us, with 4 by-elections slated for October 27th, to take place in Edmonton-Whitemud (to replace Dave Hancock), Calgary-West (to replace Ken Hughes), Calgary-Foothills (to replace Len Webber), and Calgary-Elbow (to replace She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named).

If you're wondering what I mean by "silly season", do a hashtag search on twitter for "#ableg". Don't say I didn't warn you.

Much has been made already about how crucial it is to the long-term success of the Prentice PC Government that these by-elections buck the normal trend, and go the governing party's way. So let's talk about that. Jim Prentice is essentially holding a mini-referendum on his "new government" with these by-elections. The only one of the 4 that the PCs can actually afford to lose without major repercussions is Calgary-West.

What do I mean by "major repercussions"?

Consider this: Under our system, it is completely legal to have a cabinet minister who does not sit in the legislature. We've seen it before, and we'll likely see it again. The reason for this is hard to argue: Sometimes, the voters don't pick anyone as a government MLA who is, quite frankly, qualified or ideal to run a certain department in the way the Premier wants it run. A medical degree doesn't automatically qualify you to run a major government department like Health, any more than having ovaries automatically qualifies you to be the minister responsible for Children's Services.

A little side-note, of course, is that it is ALSO perfectly legal in our system - though it hasn't been done, to my memory - to have an OPPOSITION legislator sit in cabinet. Some may recall that this was the suggested outcome of a possible Liberal-NDP federal legislative coalition to bring down the Harper minority government in its early days, with the Liberals said to be taking the bulk of the cabinet seats, but a major front-row seat going to several New Democrats, including their leader at the time, Jack Layton.

In the United States, that great exemplar of all that's right with freedom and democracy, members of the federal cabinet are NEVER elected legislators - if they hold a seat in Congress at the time of their appointment to cabinet, they have to resign that seat. In short, the expectation there - as it should be EVERYWHERE, frankly - is not that the person in charge of the Ministry is "the best choice from among the legislators who successfully won election", but rather "the best person for the job". Democracy still trumps all - if a cabinet member wants to do something and the legislative assembly shoots down the idea, it's not happening.

All that said, though, Prentice is putting himself and his 2 non-MLA cabinet ministers - Gordan Dirks (Education) and Stephen Mandel (Health) - to the electorate in their respective ridings, and asking those voters to give their endorsement. And here's where the peril kicks in for Prentice and his "new government".

If any - ANY - of the "Big 3" don't win their seat on October 27th, Prentice will have no choice but to see that person replaced. Even if that person is himself.

While an non-MLA in a cabinet position has the legal authority to serve in that capacity, once that same cabinet member has gone to the electorate and been rejected by them, it's hard to argue against the notion that they've lost the MORAL authority to continue to serve.

If that happens to Dirks or Mandel, Prentice is going to either have to shuffle his cabinet, or bring in another outsider and - if he wants them to sit in the legislative assembly - go through the uncertainty and hassle of finding them a place to run and rolling the dice on another by-election. This starts being problematic for Henry and Martha Albertan because of the costs involved, not to mention the optics of a government in a perpetual state of construction. It ALSO starts being problematic for the grassroots members of the PC Party, many of whom serve on local Constituency Association Boards, sworn to uphold constitutions that are built around the notion that local members, and nobody else, determine who their PC candidate will be. If someone tries to appoint a candidate against their wishes, then they - and their labour, their years of experience, and their fundraising - might walk away from the table.

If PRENTICE himself fails to win his seat in Calgary-Foothills, I don't see how he can continue to serve as Party Leader and Premier. A rejection by the people of Foothills would throw the PC Party - and the higher functions of government, by extension - into a state of chaos that would make this past spring look like High Tea by comparison. The other parties know it, too, which is why they're going to put everything they've got into Foothills. It's only one quarter of the available seats, but a victory for them there means the ballgame.

Jim Prentice isn't the only leader on a short leash with these by-elections, however. Danielle Smith's Wildrose Party leads in most polls, and as such it's expected that they *should* be capable of winning at least 2 of these seats, if not more. With many voters (erroneously) thinking that a vote for their local Wildrose candidate is a vote for Danielle Smith (it's not), some may be looking to try and "send a message" to the PCs, much like the voters of Calgary-Glenmore did when they elected Paul Hinman in a byelection (only to vote him out at the next opportunity).

Nobody expects Wildrose to realistically win all 4 of these byelections - a Wildrose win in Whitemud would be shocking, even to their staunchest supporters. If Wildrose DOESN'T win at least 2 of these seats though, given their standing in the polls, their successful fundraising efforts, their attempts to moderate the party's image and policies to make it more palatable to progressive urban voters, their status as the Official Opposition, and the fact that the governing party often loses byelections because voters feel free to blacken their eyes without needing to worry about actually changing governments as a result, then Danielle is going to start hearing more earnest whispers within her own party as to whether or not she's got what it takes to bring them over the finish line. If Wildrose doesn't win ANY of the 4 byelections, there's reason to believe you may start to see the type of open insurrection within Wildrose that you saw in the PC ranks earlier this year - MLAs looking for greener pastures, opportunists letting their feet do the talking as they seek out opportunities in a party they think has a better chance to be in power come summer of 2016, party rank-and-file and donors calling for new leadership...

It really is lonely at the top. And for Jim Prentice and Danielle Smith, the stakes couldn't be higher. They know it. Their advisers know it. And their mantras, whispered fervently before they go to bed each night, are exactly the same - inspired by the great philosopher Al Davis:

Just win, baby.

(author's note: this post was edited to correct a factual error kindly pointed out by Timothy Gerwing on Twitter - the Al Davis quote was originally credited by me to John Madden. No offense to Mr. Davis)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

SWOTing the Contenders

Nation: In case you hadn't heard, the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta is electing a new Leader. Despite repeated assertions by journalists and bloggers alike that the Party is in a freefall and destined for imminent destruction (many of the same headlines I recall reading in the spring of 2012, for the record, so at least they're consistent), the reality is that the only thing certain in Alberta politics these days is that the winner of this leadership election will be Alberta's next Premier. For how long, is up to the voters. Or the members of the PC Caucus. Or the Party membership. But I digress.

Over the course of the next week, I'm going to be doing a quick SWOT of the candidates, as they head into the final month of this campaign. SWOT, for those who've never had the pleasure of writing one up, stands for "Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats". They're pretty much a mandatory thing to do on any political campaign these days, both for the candidate you're running, and that candidates' opponents, in order to figure out what strategies are most likely to get you across the finish line ahead of the others. They can be brutal, as honesty is absolutely key - if you don't mention your candidate's philandering and come up with a way to blunt the damage, your opponents will crush you with it when they discover it (and they will, when they run their own thorough SWOT on your candidate).

I'm not going to go so in-depth with the 3 leadership contenders as to put you all to sleep, and I'm not going to tell any tales out-of-school, because I just don't know the tales - my research budget isn't quite as robust as those of the Opposition parties (I'm working off a $15 Starbucks card). What I hope to give you, though, is at least a taste of what these campaigns have already done internally - and what the Wildrose, Alberta Liberals, NDP, and Alberta Party are doing already (to some extent) and will start doing in earnest once the winner is announced.

Because it bears repeating again - no matter which party you personally support, no matter what the Sun's editorial page says, and no matter what you hear during the "call-in" portion of your local talk radio day-time show... the winner of this race is going to be Alberta's Premier. Whether you like it or you don't like it (blame the Westminster System), it's reality. So we may as well meet the guy who will be steering the next few $40 Billion budgets.

Savage, 10-35

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Be Careful What You Wish For...

"Be careful what you wish for - you just might get it."

These were the prophetic words spoken to me by a friend in the days before I sat down with my fellow members of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta's Board of Directors in a Calgary hotel on the Ides of March, and discussed the metaphorical elephant in the room.

I should back up at this point, and mention - because I don't think I have in this space - that I'm currently serving on the PCAA Board of Directors as the regional director for Calgary South. In that role, I represent the five PC Constituency Associations south of Anderson Road in Calgary to the Party Board - bringing the concerns of those grassroots members to the table for discussion and voting in their interests. Not because I'm some political genius or mastermind - I'm just the guy who put his hand up when they asked for volunteers.

I mention the above only so that I can mention this: The Enlightened Savage remains a blog beholden to no one party, candidate, or set of ideas. This blog is not a promotional tool for the PCs, or for anyone else. It has not been, and WILL not be, a platform trumpeting any particular leadership candidate. I am not a spokesman for the PC Party. Everything I write in this space is a reflection of my own views, which do not necessarily reflect - and are often in stark contrast to - the majority within the PCAA. 

In that same vein, if you're looking for someone to "spill the beans" on what goes on in those meetings, you're going to have to keep looking - because I'm not your guy. It's not that I'm a big fan of secrecy: Far from it, in fact. But I gave my word that things discussed in confidence will remain in confidence, and that's not a promise I'm willing to break. Not because I owe anything to the party, but because I owe it to MYSELF to keep my word when it's given.

Now, ALL that said - this is a space for opinion and analysis. So here's some of both.

Alison Redford resigned as Leader of the PCAA at just about the last possible second that the decision was going to remain hers to make. Facing possible revolts on all fronts, she pulled the parachute cord because she had no other choice. If she hadn't, the revelations that continued to come out in the days and weeks that followed would have resulted in open insurrection within the Party.

It's too soon to judge Redford's legacy as Premier - history will do that in due course. Her government brought in reforms that increased transparency and accountability in government - ironically, some of those same reforms helped hasten her own downfall. She was the Premier of record when the historic agreement between the Province and the Tsuu T'ina was inked to finally, after decades of delays, complete Southwest Calgary's stretch of the ring road. And she received generally positive reviews for her handling of the worst natural disaster in our province's history.

Of course, it wasn't all sunshine and roses. In addition to the scandals that contributed to her resignation, Redford was panned for making up policy on the fly, and was heavily criticized for fostering a sense of patronizing and arrogant governance. She was aloof and confrontational with other legislators and staff, going months without having conversations with her own cabinet ministers. Teachers and members of the public service felt utterly betrayed by the attitude that her government took towards collective bargaining.

But, to quote former PC Leadership contender Ken Hughes: That was then, this is now.

NOW, we've got a leadership race. The third one since 2006. I remember the leadership election of 2006 very clearly: It was the event that gave birth to this blog, when an anonymous twenty-something decided that someone had to fill the vacuum being left by the mainstream media's love affair with the "Jim Dinning/Ted Morton" showdown for the PC Leadership.

In this leadership race, it looks as though there will be three candidates: Thomas Lukaszuk, Ric McIver, and Jim Prentice. So it will be easier to cover than some other races. So easy, in fact, that we might even be able to count on the MSM to cover every candidate.

I'll be covering it, too. I'm not working on anyone's campaign. I'm going to try - like I did in 2006 and again in 2011 - to be an honest broker of information, so that my readers can make up their own minds who - if anyone - has earned their support.

I'm not going to pretend to be super-excited to be covering my third PC leadership race in 8 years, because I'm not.

But considering the alternative - this is better than THAT would have been.

Be careful what you wish for, indeed.

Savage, 10-35.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Nation, it's been an interesting few months to be me, politically-speaking. We'll talk more about that soon - I promise.

What hit my radar yesterday was the news that 53 Alberta Liberal constituency associations - including 2 with sitting MLA's - and 3 Wildrose associations, including that of sitting Little Bow MLA and noogie participant Ian Donovan, missed a mandatory filing deadline with Elections Alberta and were subsequently de-registered.

The partisan "dance of joy" began almost immediately on social media, with opponents (mostly PCs and New Democrats) eager to point out how utterly disorganized and amateurish these associations must be to miss a mandatory deadline from Elections Alberta, and how terribly embarrassing it must be.

Yes, I imagine it is pretty embarrassing. And you should probably shut up now.

The reality is, most constituency associations are run by well-intentioned amateurs. Regular, average people who just want to participate in the democratic process and make their province better. People like me. And you. And your parents. And their neighbours. Most of them aren't experts in board governance. Or accountants. Or lawyers. Or experts in the application of Robert's Rules of Order.

They're just doing the best they can to participate. They're doing the heavy lifting in between elections so you and I can show up on election day and vote for a candidate representing the party of our preference.

And you know what? Those amateurs - US amateurs - make mistakes. None of the associations I'm involved with missed this particular deadline, but that's not because I'm some super-genius backroom political organizer (I'm not). It just as easily COULD have been one of my associations. People miss deadlines. There are things we amateurs just flat-out don't know how to do. And if our central party office doesn't have staff who can help us keep track and get things squared away under the wire - or we don't have the time to figure it out ourselves - deadlines get missed. There might be a chance to criticize a party's paid staff as result of this situation, but even that is like scoring in the 10 point ring on "SkeeBall" - your political drinking buddies might "cheers" your Tweet, but voters don't care, and you just come across as cheap.

At the end of the day, what happened with this deadline could just as easily have happened to any association, anywhere in the province. And going out of your way to make fun of groups of volunteers who are trying their level best, with absolutely no financial return for their efforts whatsoever, is the lowest form of sleazy politics.

It's an embarrassing situation all right. But not for who you THINK should be embarrassed.

Savage: 10-35.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Cats and Dogs Living Together

Happy New Year, Nation.

And what better way to start off the new year than with a nomination battle in the freshly-minted federal electoral district association of the Calgary Signal Hill Conservatives?

Signal Hill is a new constituency encompassing much of the current constituency of Calgary West - represented in Parliament since the Spice Girls hit "Wannabe" topped the charts by Rob Anders.

Mr. Anders' CV is readily available elsewhere on the net, and doesn't need to be repeated here.

Anders, 3 short years before being elected to represent the people of Calgary West

The recent announcement of yet another in a long line of "Oust Anders" campaigns was capped off today with the formal entry of Ron Liepert, former Alberta Cabinet Minister, as standard-bearer for the "" movement. The argument put forth by the group is that they support Prime Minister Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada, but want a better representative for their riding than Rob Anders has been.

Anders, as he has successfully done in the past, leapt to the offensive, labeling the group disaffected "Red Tories" and accusing them of trying to sign up Liberals, New Democrats, and "fellow travelers" in an effort - orchestrated by minions of Alberta Premier Alison Redford, herself a former Anders challenger -  to take his job away as retribution for his support of the provincial Wildrose Party.

And for the better part of a week, Anders' strategy worked. Again. The entire conversation focused not on Anders and what he has or has not done for the people he represents, but rather on what a Red Tory was - and whether Ron Liepert was one. Discussions of "red vs. blue" in Alberta don't usually end up well for the person who is unsuccessful in labeling themselves as the blue candidate.

While historical Red Toryism is an entirely different kettle of fish, the reality remains that there is, and always has been, a large contingent of Red Tories in the Conservative Party of Canada. When the party was founded out of the union of the Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative Parties, many of the former PC's fell into this more socially moderate camp. Nationally, Red Tory has come to mean someone who is fiscally conservative, yet socially liberal. 

Now, different provinces foster different environments for people to identify themselves within, politically speaking. Someone who would be an Alberta PC might find themselves a BC Liberal, or a member of the Saskatchewan Party. Wildrose Party members who moved to Regina would likewise find themselves as SaskParty members with their former Alberta PC foes, but if they moved to BC they might be more comfortable in the BC Conservative Party. It's all a matter of what parties are available to choose from, who's been leading them, and what real estate on the political spectrum they've staked out their claim on.

In Alberta provincial politics, the distinction between "Red Tory" and "Blue Tory" comes down, usually, to 2 things: Their social politics, and their attitude towards short-term debt. Social conservatism and social liberalism are pretty self-explanatory - even in Alberta - so we don't need to beat those to death. A Red Tory, though, might find it acceptable to borrow in the short-term - say, build a badly-needed overpass and pay it back over 5 years - while an Alberta Blue Tory would smack that Red Tory in the face with his framed picture of Ralph Klein and declare that public debt is stealing from future generations.

Detractors of Red Tories in Alberta would tell you that they are "Liberals in blue shirts" - people who, if they had the courage of their convictions, would come out as small-l liberals and accept that they'll never get elected in Alberta. Red Tories, therefore, are liberals who try to sneak their way into government, watering down the "true conservative" nature of the governing PC Party.

Supporters of the Red Tories would point out that policies that have come out of supposed Red Tory governments like those of Peter Lougheed and Alison Redford would be about as far right-wing as anyone in any other province would dare tread as the government. So, Red by Alberta standards, but plenty Blue compared to the rest of the nation.

And herein lies the crux of Anders' argument: He's trying to paint Ron Liepert as being a Red Tory, because:
  • Ron Liepert was a provincial PC and was in cabinet under Alison Redford, and
  • Ron Liepert broke the First Commandment of Alberta politics and talked in public about a sales tax, and
  • Ron Liepert is socially to the left of Rob Anders.

Are all of the above things true? Sure they are. Liepert WAS in Cabinet under Redford - then again, so was Ted Morton, and Anders supported Morton for the PC Leadership. Liepert DID talk about a provincial sales tax. As a means of reducing the provincial Income Tax, so that people would be taxed on what they consume rather than being punished for their productivity - it's one of the fundamental principles of fiscal conservatism. And Liepert IS to the left of Rob Anders. Along with Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, and the vast majority of Canadians.

But is Liepert a Red Tory?

No. No, he's not. He's about as Blue as you can get before you enter the "Anders Zone" - and that's pretty blue. Think "#0B0B3B".

Is Liepert a recent addition to the Conservative movement?

No. He started working for Peter Lougheed in 1980, when Anders was 8 years old.

Does the Red Tory/Blue Tory thing MATTER?

No, it doesn't. Political parties are the creation of their members. As such, they shift politically - sometimes slowly, and sometimes quickly. Old members leave. New members join. Members switch from one party to another, based on this issue or that issue. Many of the members of the Reform Party started off as federal PCs, before leaving that party. When they left they took their voices and viewpoints with them, and the party shifted to the left. By the time the descendant Canadian Alliance and the federal PCs merged, there wasn't much uniting the parties in common purpose except for the belief that debt was to be avoided if possible, and that they needed to come back together if they ever wanted to be able to defeat the Liberals, who had been handily winning majority governments for the past decade.

So they came together. They took away the Liberal majority government, and reduced it to a minority government. And then they won a minority government themselves. And then another. And finally a majority, in 2011. 

In the end, what we have on the right side on the spectrum in Canada is a monolithic, HUGE-tent party, called the Conservative Party of Canada. There are social moderates, and social conservatives. People who believe in a woman's right to choose, and people who believe life begins at conception. People who believe that short-term debt is acceptable, and people who will fight you if you suggest they pay for dinner with a credit card rather than cash. 

In much of the west, including most of Alberta, securing a nomination for the CPC all but guarantees a seat as an MP. What we're seeing in Calgary Signal Hill isn't an effort by a carpet-bagger to swoop in to the riding and steal the seat away from a popular incumbent. It's democracy in action - a new riding, requiring a new nominee for the party. Party members will decide who that nominee will be. And it very well may be that Anders overcomes this challenge, as he has so many times before. But every citizen in Calgary Signal Hill is entitled to join whatever political party they choose, no matter what Rob, or you, or I, think about it. There's no blood test that proves conservatism, and - contrary to Anders' argument, you CAN be a conservative, and support Stephen Harper, and STILL not support Rob Anders.

At the end of the day, the people decide.

Red or Blue, it doesn't matter. After all: We're just one big, happy Conservative Family...