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alberta election: the leaders’ debate will matter.

In a typical provincial election in Alberta, the televised Leaders’ debate is a mere formality in a process that would inevitably lead to the election of another massive Progressive Conservative majority government. Even when the perceived winner of the debate is the leader of an opposition party, the effects on the governing party have been relatively minimal. In the last election, expectations were set so low for Premier Ed Stelmach that his satisfactory performance was seen as a big win for the soft-spoken and stuttering communicator.

The only televised Leader’s Debate during Alberta’s 2012 will be held on April 12 and it could be a spectacle not seen in this province in decades (CBC is hosting a Leaders’ forum, which will be broadcast on radio and live-streamed on the internet). It will be the first time that Premier Alison Redford and Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith will debate each other face-to-face and also the first Leaders’ debate for three of the four main party leaders (it is Liberal leader Raj Sherman‘s first televised debate).

All eyes will be on Premier Redford and Ms. Smith.

Alison Redford Alberta Election 2012 Conservative leader
Alison Redford

The debate will be Premier Redford’s opportunity to turn the tide that has swept her 41-year governing Progressive Conservative Party into contention for official opposition status. Unlike her recent predecessors, she has the unfortunate task of having to answer for every misstep taken by her governing party for the past four decades.

This will be Premier Redford’s big opportunity to deliver a pitch to moderate conservatives, liberals, and undecided voters that voting for the more conservative and untested Wildrose Party just is not worth the risk. Despite a rough six months as Premier, she is a skilled debater.

Danielle Smith Wildrose Party Alberta Election 2012
Danielle Smith

Calm and confident, Ms. Smith has been preparing for this debate for years. Despite having never been elected as an MLA or faced any of her political opponents on the floor of the Assembly, Ms. Smith has honed her political debating skills on and off television as a columnist with the Calgary Herald, a brief stint as a school trustee, a director of a right-wing lobby group, and party leader since 2009.

With Ms. Smith’s party riding high in the polls, creating the real possibility that she could be our province’s next Premier, expectations will be set high for her to perform well in this debate. I would be surprised if she does not meet these expectations, but the other leaders will be marking targets on her party’s more controversial positions on conscience rights, de-listing abortion, attacking reporters, and privatizing health care. So far, the Wildrose leader has tried to avoid even commenting on most these issues, sticking to her highly disciplined and controlled campaign messaging.

Brian Mason Alberta NDP leader 2012 Election
Brian Mason

Entering his third election as leader of Alberta’s NDP, Brian Mason has an opportunity to present Albertans with a clear alternative to the two leading conservative parties.

Following Ms. Smith’s announcement that her party would introduce more privatization into Alberta’s health care system, Mr. Mason jumped at the opportunity to get into the debate. With Edmonton-Calder candidate David Eggen by his side, Mr. Mason launched a campaign to “Save Public Health Care.” The NDP are polling well in Edmonton, with a recent Leger survey showing them with 20% support in the provincial capital, which has always been the centre of NDP support in Alberta.

Raj Sherman Liberal leader 2012 Alberta Election
Raj Sherman

For Dr. Sherman, who left the Tory backbenches in 2010 and now leads the official opposition Liberal Party, the debate will be his biggest opportunity to save his party from third party status or even being completely shut out of the Assembly. The Liberals became the official opposition in 1993 and since then their support has steadily declined (with the notable exception of the 2004 election when Kevin Taft led the party to double its seats in the Assembly).

Health care has been a key focus of Dr. Sherman’s campaign, and despite his professional expertise working in the Emergency Rooms of Edmonton’s hospitals, the Liberals have not been able to turn this strength into growth in the polls. Having earned a reputation for being sporadic when put on the spot, Dr. Sherman will be the wild-card in the April 12 debate.

Searching for the knock-out punch

The most interesting aspect of televised leaders’ debates, especially in elections where the results are not evident from the day the Writ is dropped, is that one misspeak or surprise Academy Award winning performance could potentially change the outcome on election day.

Most people will refer to Brian Mulroney‘s performance in the the 1984 federal election as the perfect example of a “knock-out punch“, but this clip from the 1991 British Columbia provincial election remains one of my favourite. Watch as Liberal leader Gordon Wilson delivers the most famous soundbite of that election, which helped take his party from zero seats in the Assembly to seventeen.

(Thanks to Colby Cosh, whose tweets inspired this post)

28 replies on “alberta election: the leaders’ debate will matter.”

I do not think there will be any knock out punch
Smith will stay on her clear, concise way of answering. She is smart enough not to answer”stupid what if questions”. She has been concise on those issues that are seen as contentious – conscience objection- pretty clear she abides by federal law. Citizen initiatives – pretty clear she abides by the law. Nothing more for her to say on these ” hot button, dreamed up by PC as something more than they are”. Oh yeah, watch for the term ” hidden agenda”
Redford is also smart and probably a good debtor in a court of law- out with the people, she talks so much in big words going round and round hard to find definitive answer there. But she is trained as a lawyer and that is what they do. But she will have a hard time with governance issues – just no way around those other than to say – I am new and shiny. First thing bring those receipts for the guys who paid back their no meet salaries- show them to Albertans- would go a long way on restoration on that point. So hold them up for the cameras.

Ms. Redford had an option upon becoming Premier six months ago to signal an end to the PC culture of entitlement, to order her MLAs to repay every penny pocketed on the money-for-nothing, no-meet committee, to reverse the 30+% pay hike her predecessor gave cabinet, and to scrap overly generous transition allowances for retiring and defeated incumbents. She could have recognized, before it was too late, that the PC culture of entitlement is wrong for Alberta, and that Albertans should not have to pay the price for the arrogance of this tired old Tory party. Ms. Redford admitted her error only after she had dropped the writ, once she had no real power to reverse it. Respectfully, that is not good enough for Albertans — it is an avowal of failure, a confession of non-leadership, and this province needs leadership. She had an option, she could have done better. Oh and one more thing: she’s no Jack Kennedy!

I have to admit I find the whole election rather ironic. It reminds me of what my father told me back when Lougheed won.

“In Alberta there are only two constants… the first is that politicians in this province will always seek to enrich themselves through the public position they hold, the second is that Albertan’s by and large don’t care as long as the province is doing well and the politician doesn’t get caught.”

That truism killed the So-Creds, and now it is about to do in the PC’s.

While I’ve made my decision to vote for the Wildrose, (because yes Dave, I can name my local candidate, and more than a few others as well)I confess that I had been mostly hopeful that the Tories would be greatly diminshed as a majority, or better a minority government, giving the Wildrose some time to gain experiece, and at worst sending the PC’s a message that they better get the house in order before the next writ drops.

It now appears that the Wildrose stand a very good chance at a minority, and even possibly a majority, although 2 weeks is a lifetime in an election campaign and it has to be said that in the end if the Wildrose does win a majority, it will most likely be a small one.

This fact does provide a momentary pause for me… nothing like a novice politician getting screwed by an experienced mandarin, and our government has made it a profession to create well entrenched, experienced mandarins. Even still, the Wildrose cannot do worse than the Tories in the last 6 years, and there is only so much trouble they can accomplish in a single mandate.

They aren’t liberals, they aren’t NDP, and I am highly suspicious of the PC party right now, so I’m sticking with my decision regarding my voting preference.

I’ve spoken to many, many friends in Alberta, and they all say the same thing… the PC’s are just a collection of socialists now, and I’m afraid I agree.

Allison Redford, given her actions in the last several weeks, has proven she isn’t her own man, but rather a tool of the left component of the PC Party.

After 44 years as a resident of Alberta, that isn’t my Alberta, she isn’t my Alberta, and the PC’s have stopped listening to Albertans in general, so time to hit the reset button… a bad decision can be worked with, not making a decison and leaving a tired and totally ethically bankrupt party in place when we as Albertan’s know they are ethically bankrupt, that would be the crime.

The PC’s made the mistake of being arrogant and obvious in their dipping into the cookie jar… and just like the Ol’ Man said, there is one thing that Albertans don’t tolerate, and that is a lying, thieving politician who gets caught for being a lying thieving politician.

A $40 Billion plus budget Dave… surely you can’t be accepting of that for a population of 3.2 million residents… it’s insanely inflated, grossly mis-managed, and frankly I and many like-minded residents of this province are seriously pissed off about this. $14500 per head… $4000 more than the next most wasteful province, BC.

I didn’t spend a decade under Klien getting my nuts twisted off in user fee’s, reduction of services, and a basically worse way of life, to see our Heritage fund diminished, our $17 billion dollar sustainabilty fund pissed away into the wind, and some jack off like Ron Liepert floating test balloons for sales taxs because “we have to get creative in how we fund the infrastructure needs of the province, and Albertans are ready to have that conversation”.

Like hell we are. We didn’t need to have that conversation because we had the “Royalty regime” to offset the need for a sales tax.

The PC’s don’t know how to manage money anymore, and every stupid lefty with a cause is getting funded by them.

NO MORE! Even if it means a few scary pro-lifers, or a few assholes unwilling to marry same-sex partners.

Dave, Dave Dave…

You’re better than this.

To imply that the Wild Rose party is seeking to de-list abortion and to privatize medicare based upon some tortured logic from some virulent opponents does your blog no service.

We’ve had public funded private delivered medical care for generations. They are called “Family Medical Clinics”. Smith has consistently, and without fail, explained her position that there will be no expansion of private funded medical care under her watch – but that she is open to the example of private delivered, public funded care. Like a family medical clinic that most of us have been going to for 50 years.

And not that Albertans would probably cry too long if abortion was delisted – but, again, the party clearly has no intention of seeking to delist abortion. And the link makes that relatively clear – though, in fairness, the people in question were told they were free, as with any other issue – to bring a citizens referendum if they could get a petition of 10% of the population to support a bill.

How dare the party allow individuals direct access to democracy!! Those bastards. Much better to leave it to the beaurocrats like Alison Redford to control – even if THEIR answer is to get paid to do nothing.

Daniel Smith is a breath of fresh air. Time to smell the Roses Alberta.

The Wildrose government wants to provide alternatives and options for health care. That really means that ‘when and if you can afford the alternative or the option, you pay for it and are reimbursed. The point for most Albertans is that they cannot afford to pay for the options and wait to be reimbursed. Or they cannot afford to pay for the travel to another country to pay for an option that they cannot afford.
While I agree that tiered health care currently exists, the Wildrose government will ‘starve’ the public system. By permitting more que- jumping.

@Meadowlark Lemon ; if those who can afford to wait to be reimbursed went elsewhere would that not shorten the queue for everyone ?

I think we have some really clear examples – gimbal eye clinic – privately run, publicly funded for Albertans. Yes, there were out of country that paid – why did they come here- maybe cause of its excellence! Now that was not all that scary was it. Know some people who went out to privately operated Cambie Center to get a shoulder done – not a cent did they pay – yes they paid airfare – but after 2 years of pain – pretty nice vacation! Why go there – long lines here, and Cambie just happens to have some of the best results for outcomes. Again, that wasn’t that scary, was it.
I have worked in a number of different systems, and from experience, privately operated, publicly funded is pretty good. Costs go down, outcomes are about the same, access goes up- go look at some European models. Don’t be scared.
And please do not always compare to Us – there are better models out there than either the Us or Canada

Meadowlark.. The Alberta Party/NDP/PC party scare tactics just aren’t catching on.

Public funded.

Private delivery ( ie. no union, no bloated public pension).

It’s really not that scary. But it is more efficient and more cost effective. Of course, there is the Greek ( Alberta Party/NDP/PC ) plan we COULD go with.. Just pretend money will never run out until it does….

I think I’ll try Wild Rose on for size.

well i have voted Progressive Conservative in 6 straight elections. If you were a conservative that was your only choice. Some years they were good and some years not so good.
Now we have a PC Party led by MsRedford. She epitomizes everything i dislike about the party. She has people in her office who play very dirty (i.e Stephen Carter / former 23 staffer who put her foot in her mouth and others) She has mislead Albertans on the public inquiry, she threw 107 million out to the teachers to solidify her nomination victory, she says she wants to “change Alberta” as though we are somehow broken!!
It is clear to me Danielle Smith is an extremely intelligent, witty, thoughtful, and very prepared to assume the position of Premier!! And another thing is very clear that the majority of Albertans also see her the same. I have talked to many many people and i hear the same thing….tiem for a change! i bet 7 out of every 10 tell me there are voting for WildRose. Its true, you dont have to believe me, just tune in on the evening of April 23 and that will verify it!
15 days until we can finally have a government we can be proud of!!!

“No union…” means no guarantees of quality care. Health care unions help ensure adequate staffing levels; provide health care workers the wages, benefits, and working conditions necessary for a career and not just a job; and provide whistleblower protection against cutting corners in patient safety.

As for the so-called “European” model, let me add this: the Europeans can make mixed delivery work for two reasons: because they are willing to regulate private providers six ways from Sunday, something advocates for this model on this side of the Atlantic are not willing to do; and because they are not parties to something called NAFTA.

If privately-delivered health care is allowed to expand anywhere in Canada, even in only one province, the provisions of NAFTA would force Canadians to accept the entry of US-based multinational health care corporations into the Canadian health care system in all 10 provinces and all three territories. This would be a public policy disaster of epic proportions, and inevitably lead to full-scale privatization, and credit cards replacing our health care cards when you seek care.

Jerry,

That is one of the most specious arguments I’ve ever heard for not privatizing. Really, get your facts straight.

Firstly, there are countless examples of private delivery in Alberta… has been for the better part of 20 years… eyes, hips, knees. The list goes on and on. Not to mention that of the 4 most populous provinces, Alberta has the least amount of private care available to date.

Secondly, they are paid for through AHC, and yes if you want something deemed not covered by the AHC program, you buck up some dollars. Last time I checked Botox isn’t a covered treatment, yet I can name 20 dermatologists in this provinve who deliver it as a service right beside AHC covered treatment for AHC deemed necessary skin problems.

Thirdly, Nafta is a trade agreement which is still subject to our constitution, which has a little thing each province can use called the “not withstanding clause”. Ask Quebec. They use it every five years to enforce french language rights.

A foreign national can win all the WTO court cases they want, but the Constituation will always win within our borders, and Healthcare is a domestic issue, outside the WTO’s purview.

Fourthly, you have to be competitive to compete in private medicine against the AHC. 10 stitches in Alberta will run you nothing… zip. It costs the AHC maybe $500.00 all in. 10 stitches in Seattle will run you $800 bucks upfront. Which option do you think your average Albertan is going to take, the AHC delivered no money out of my pocket option, or buck up $800 dollars. My household makes over $200K per annum, and I’m still not paying $800 for something I don’t need to pay for.

A doctor’s visit under an HMO is running $250.00, while in Alberta its $29.00. Lets see… I’m a doctor in the US making $250 bucks a pop seeing patients, so I only have to see 10 patients a day vs moving to Alberta because of privativation, where I can charge a whooping $29.00 to AHC and I need to see 60 patients a day. Oh yeah, sign me up baby.

No one is going to bother charging for something that is cheaper when delivered by AHC.

That said, if you can afford to pay for a medically necessary procedure, and it costs $5000.00 of which AHC is only covering $500… why shouldn’t you have that choice? Did it ever occur to you that by allowing those who can afford that choice to do so, it’s one less person taking up a bed or surgery in the public system, helping to speed up delivery on that side for a person who doesn’t have $5K? Scale of economies here bub.

Oh yes, the “all doctors will want to charge if that is the case” argument. Which is crap, because you regulate through their license, forcing doctors with a pension for money to put “x” amount of hours into the public system. It’s not rocket science.

Fifth, there is no shortage of dollars for Healthcare today, there is only a shortage of proper management. It’s not rocket science.

In fact, if you want to be concerned about healthcare, perhaps you’d do better to bitch about healthcare cards. Currently there are in excess of 5 million healthcare cards vs 3.2 million Albertans… Neat trick eh?

That’s because all you need to get a healthcare card in this province is a PO box. Did you know doctors in places like Montana and Idaho tell their poorer patients, “take a drive up to Alberta, have your baby there”. Cause it’s free.

The AHC card program alone is by industry standards subject to between 5% and 15% fraud, just because of the stupidity of their card management program.

That means that somewhere between $800 million, and $2.4 billion dollars of our healthcare expenditures is being siphoned off due to fraud.

Get worried about that before you get worried about privatization.

Sixth, it’s the cost of delivery that is killing the system right now. Between liability insurance making a roll of toilet paper 20 times more expensive than the same one you or I buy off the shelf, and the cost of unionized workers who do the job of 1/8th of a worker in most other countries, we are choking ourselves.

I personally am prepared to release the liability part on supplies… I can live with the chance that 1 in every 3 million people die from tainted toilet paper if it will allow money to go to more important problems… would you sacrifice your right to litigate for the same reason?

Did you know that the same MRI we use at the Foothills hospital, which will see on average 16 people a day, will see 80 people a day in the Bejing University Hospital? There the MRI tech gets two 15 minute breaks and a 30 minute lunch, here an MRI tech gets 20 to 30 minutes between patients… Their MRI’s run 24/7, ours… not so much.

In Mexico, an MRI costs $50 dollars at a private clinic… Their system is identical to ours. Yet they allow choice through private means, and they delivery of care is no worse than ours.

Lastly, although I’m sure there are many more ways to bitch-slap your silly statements… do you really think that the voting public is going to allow privatization to the point that it jeopredizes their ability to get treatment?

I would not want to be going into an election with that around my neck, and I think it’s pretty safe to say no politian with half a brain would want to either.

Keep it real Brother.

Not only does Ms Redford have the “unfortunate task of having to answer for every misstep taken by her party for the past 4 decades” she has to answer for every misstep (and that’s putting it kindly) she herself made since taking the helm in Oct 2011.

She clings to the belief that she’s an “authentic” leader who lives up to her word, but her track record shows otherwise. Her credibility is shot and her only defense is fear mongering.

I can see them now: Redford accusatory and defensive, Smith calm and analytical, Mason solid and witty and Sherman all over the map. It will be a very interesting debate indeed!

The Wild Rose “Tea” Party is a camouflage rulers right wing collective whose Republican style ideas run counter to the principles enshrined in our Charter of Human Rights.
This is 2012 not 1912 and I for one find the regressive policies of this party to be very divisive for our future.

Joe Alberta – someone who understands health care – thankyou – it is refreshing! Oh just one more fact – about 35% of health care is private in Alberta – starting with Dr Office. You are so right on with your analysis. I cannot wait to start to clean up this mess – figure it will take about 10 years to unwind so it will be a challenge – you know something is wrong when we spend (by a large margin) more per capita than anywhere else and still have not achieved desirable outcomes. Cannot wait until April 23.

And Sandra – do not keep pulling up the good old USA – different laws, different govt system, different constiutions and charter (bill of) rights.

It should be clear to most that for healthcare, the ‘Canadian way’ is not working. While this requires a slice of humble pie for advocates of Canada’s single-payer health insurance system – patients and taxpayers more generally would be much better off without Canada’s health care hubris.

The first step is recognizing that greater private involvement in the delivery and financing of medical services does not mean an erosion of universal access to health care. It also does not mean that the well-off will have access to high quality health care at the expense of low-income families.

The diversion—that any private involvement in health care will lead to American-style health care. It can’t be repeated enough that every Canadian should take a pledge to end American comparisons and instead focus on Europe. There in countries where universal health care is achieved, competition in the private sector has led to increased quality and efficiencies, lower prices, and virtually no wait times.

Take the Netherlands, where 99 per cent of the population is insured and which no reasonable Canadian thinks is a hotbed of supposedly radical anti-universal sentiment. In contrast to Canada where almost the entire health care sector is centrally planned by provincial and federal governments, the role of the Dutch government is to ensure a properly functioning health care market.

A vote for Wildrose is like voting for the Republicans in the US-a huge step backward for Alberta. This is the most important election likely ever. Danielle Smith has no experience and is providing people some neat nuggets to get their attention. Be careful of the change that you wish for. Change is not always good and in the case of the Wildrose, it is a step back. Read up on the Wildrose, listen to what they say and “read into” what Danielle Smith is saying-you have to, because her party is not clear on their stance on many things and they are very vague. Is that the type of change you want??? I don’t care who you vote for, just don’t let it be the Wildrose Party. Check out the resume’s between Redford and Smith. It is like comparing Obama(Redford) to Palin(Smith). Actually, Redford’s resume is likely even better than Obama’s. Who would you vote for if you were on the board of a major company and you saw both their resumes. Hands down you vote Redford. Alberta is an extremely large company-vote for experience, intelligence and leadership. Smith just does not measure up.

Jordan – ki think all should be represented. I know it’s inconvenient to have all those leaders there – but democracy is messy, but I do not like the alternatives

Alberta liberals are the only good choice. The PCs are corrupt. The WRA are rednecks – You want them to run Alberta – no!!. Do you want NDP running ALberta and the oil patch which NDP wants nationalized – NO. A centrist govt – Alberta Liberals are thee answer. Dr. Sherman will fix the healthcare, education, balance the budget and save the surpluses in the Heritage fund.

This woman is not watching either woman because I’m not interested in the policies or type of government they represent. These right wing parties represent the oil industry, agri business and the gaming industry not the working class of this province.

My support is for Raj who has demonstrated concern for health care and for offering assistance with post secondary unlike the PC who only fund trade school. What about the increased classroom, Alison that you created.

And Danielle Smith helped create a dysfunctional school board.

Simply not listening the women smooth talk us into believing they are good for Albertans.

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