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Danielle Smith Dave Bronconnier David Swann Ed Stelmach Ernie Isley Joe Anglin Kyle Fawcett Paul Hinman Ralph Klein

save the date: alberta politics in fall 2009.

October 14: Premier Ed Stelmach will deliver a televised address on CTV and AccessTV.

It is no surprise that Stelmach has a difficult time articulating himself when speaking in public, so these kind of productions will allow the Premier to present a message that is pre-produced, edited, and heavily scripted. The address is being pitched as a talk on the economy titled “The Way Forward.”  This avenue presents Stelmach with the opportunity to make bold announcements, but I expect that while making numerous references to tough economic times, he will focus on the government’s legislative agenda, economic agreements with neighbouring provinces, public service salary freezes, the recently implemented lobbyist registry, and the international role of Alberta’s oilsands. It is also difficult to imagine Stelmach not mentioning that the Governments of Alberta and Canada have provided a $865 million subsidy for carbon capture projects to Shell, one of the largest and most profitable oil companies in the world.

Stelmach’s 2007 televised address cost taxpayers $145,000, and with internet ads already popping up, I wouldn’t be surprised if the total cost was closer $200,000 this year. The Premier has already been booked on the Rutherford Show for the next morning, so expect a full court press.

October 17: Riding high in the polls, the Wildrose Alliance will announce the results of their leadership contest after over 11,000 members vote to choose either Danielle Smith or Mark Dyrholm as their new leader. It was first rumoured that ten, and now four PC MLAs are interested in chatting with Smith if she wins the contest. Since outgoing leader Paul Hinman was by-elected in Calgary-Glenmore, a number of former Progressive Conservative MLAs, including former cabinet minister Ernie Isley have joined that party.

Also on October 17 is ChangeCamp Edmonton, an event that invites Edmontonians and Albertans to re-imagine government in the age of participation. As citizens, we have a responsibility and opportunity to start redesigning the way that we participate in government. Interested? Register online for free and join the conversation on October 17!

October 26-December 3: The Alberta Legislature will sit for the first time since the spring session ended with widespread opposition to Bill 44. I anticipate the first two weeks of the fall session to be about positioning Stelmach and his cabinet in a positive light before the PC leadership review. There continues to be talk of a cabinet shuffle, and with the retirement of Ron Stevens, Stelmach has been left without a designated Calgary Lieutenant. Justice Minister Alison Redford appears to be a natural fit for this position, but with rumoured leadership ambitions herself, she may be cautious to how tight she tethers her horse to Stelmach’s buggy.

I foresee the building conflict over Bill 50, the mess inside the Department of Children Services, staff pay hikes and bonuses, cuts to health care and education, and continuing anger over Bill 44 to dominate the debate. With the Copenhagen Conference happening in December, expect Greenpeace hold another round of oilsands actions. Also, with new allies (including Enmax and Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier), landowners rights advocate Joe Anglin will be out in full force against Bill 50.

November 6-7: Premier Stelmach will face delegates at the PC leadership review in Red Deer. There is a lot of talk about how unhappy some PC supporters are with Stelmach and I don’t doubt it. Former PC insider Hal Walker has publicly dismissed the Premier, Ralph Klein has mused that the Premier should step down if he receives less than 70% support, and Calgary-North Hill PC MLA Kyle Fawcett has publicly said that Stelmach has “done very little” to convince Calgarians that he’s capable of leading the province. There is also a rumoured behind-the-scenes campaign to draft Calgary philanthropist and media personality Brett Wilson to save the dynasty that Peter Lougheed built.

The critics are vocal, but when push comes to shove I believe that the delegates to this convention will heed to the party brass and rally to protect the brand by giving Stelmach the support he needs to continue to occupy his current office.

November 6 and 26: The Alberta Liberals will be hosting their annual leader’s dinner in Calgary and Edmonton, the first since David Swann became leader of the Official Opposition in December 2008. While some Liberals remain optimistic, that party has been tied down by debt since their disasterous election campaign in 2001. The ticket sales and fundraising numbers from these two dinners will be a key indicator of the financial support that the Liberals are receiving from their traditional larger donors.

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