I’m not a big fan of career politicians and I’m even less a fan of political dynasties… our neighbours to the south may have the Kennedy, Clinton, and Bush dynasties (among others), but a closer look at the candidates in the 2008 Alberta election will reveal close family ties closer to home.
Here are nine candidates running in the 2008 Alberta Election stuck with the unfortunate political gene…
Calgary-Foothills Tory MLA Len Webber’s father, Neil Webber, was the Tory MLA for Calgary-Bow from 1975 to 1989.
Calgary-Shaw Tory MLA Cindy Ady’s father-in-law, Jack Ady, was the Tory MLA for Cardston-Chief Mountain from 1993-1997.
Cardston-Taber-Warner Wildrose Alliance MLA & leader Paul Hinman‘s grandfather was Edgar Hinman, Alberta Social Credit MLA and Treasurer from 1955-1964.
Edmonton-Strathcona NDP candidate Rachel Notley‘s father was Grant Notley, NDP leader and MLA for Fairview-Spirit River (1971-1982)
Peace River Tory MLA Frank Oberle‘s father, Frank Oberle, was the MP for Prince George-Peace River from 1973 to 1993.
Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert Tory MLA Doug Horner’s grandfather Ralph Horner, was a Senator for Saskatchewan, his father, Dr. Hugh Horner was a federal Member of Parliament under John Diefenbaker and then Alberta’s agriculture minister and deputy premier in the 1970s, and his uncles Jack Horner, Albert Horner and Norval Horner were federal MPs.
The Conservative government appointed Lynn Warkentin in December to be the returning officer in the northeast riding.
Her husband, Frank, is the chair of the Progressive Conservative party’s nomination committee in Calgary-Montrose — a connection, the two opposition leaders say, that warrants the removal of Warkentin from her post.
“There’s very close ties between the local returning officer and the PC association [in Calgary-Montrose],” said Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft.
“It’s wrong. There should not be ties between returning officers and any political party.”
Last year, Alberta’s Chief Returning Officer Lorne Gibson made a number of recommendations to Tory Justice Minister Ron Stevens on how to revamp Alberta’s election process. One of these recommendations, which obviously weren’t adopted, included:
2. Prohibition against political activity
Returning officers are currently prohibited from engaging in political activity in support of a political party or candidate, and from making a contribution under the Elections Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act. There is no similar restriction on parrisan activity at the constituency association level.
All election officers, and particularly Returning Officers, must be completely non-partisan in fact and perception. The prohibition on political activity should include a restriction on constituency association level participation.
Since the Election Clerk may be called upon to replace the Returning Officer in the case of absence or inability to act, and because of the high profile of that position, the same prohibitions should apply.
Recommendations: a. Expand the list of prohibited activities for Returning Officer to include participation at the constituency association level. b. Extend the prohibition against political activity to include Election Clerks.
Furthermore, NDP leader Brian Mason said in Calgary yesterday that “Liberals and Conservatives accepted $1.5 million from big oil and other large corporations in 2006, and almost $1.6 million in 2005.” The statement is not just misleading, but wrong.
Here’s a quick look at how campaign 2008 is shaping out in Alberta…
1. Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft released his party’s plans for Alberta’s two largest cities in an Edmonton Regional plan and Calgary Regional plan. Watch for the Alberta Liberals to focus on coalition building in Alberta’s two largest municipalities and their regions. As the Alberta Liberals probably aren’t going to gain waves of support from deep rural Tory strongholds, building an urban coalition is a smart strategy for a party looking to break Ed Stelmach‘s Tories’ 37-year-old grip on Alberta’s Legislature.
…according to Dr. Trevor Theman, registrar of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, that is likely not possible: although the need is there, it would require a near-doubling of current training spending from the province and involve recruiting dozens of more people to train them – with staff to train physicians already an issue for the existing 250 spots.
“Edmonton and Calgary are already maxed out in their ability to train, and even if there were more money, it’s an issue of human resources,” said Theman. “You need trainers available and you need people who have clinical experience to handle that training.”
In fact, the only way to achieve the province’s doctor target, said Theman, would be by relying chiefly on recruitment of overseas physicians, which is already the province’s principal new source of doctors.
3. Word on the street has it that the Stelmach Tories being sticks in the mud and are holding out in negotiations for this election’s Leaders’ Debate. The debates would have Stelmach face Kevin Taft, Wildrose Alliance leader Paul Hinman, and ND leader Brian Mason in a live province-wide radio and televised debate. Does this mean that the Tories concerned about Stelmach’s public debating skills?
Social Credit will be fielding 12 candidates and asking Albertans in the coming weeks to consider the only alternative to the Liberals or ruling Conservatives – Social Credit, a party with a rich history of governing the province and a party eager to rekindle a flame under the people of Alberta.
5. As the Alberta Greens, Soreds, and Wildrose Alliance continue to nominate candidates across the province, the Stelmach Tories have appointed two candidates in difficult constituencies: Manmeet Bhullar in Calgary-Montrose and T.J. Keil in Edmonton-Strathcona. Bhullar was appointed after the Tories rejected the Calgary-Montrose PC Association choice-candidate Robin Leech.
Welcome to Alberta’s 2008 provincial election campaign!
Before I get started on some serious election coverage, here’s a quick recap of yesterday’s Speech from the Throne. Though I don’t think Tory leader Ed Stelmach‘s campaign launch throne speech was as fabulous as one of my fellow bloggers has gushed, I don’t think it was really anything awful either. It felt like a typical Ed Stelmach-sytle Throne Speech – inoffensive, filled with re-announcements, and promises to continue projects that are already underway. Because of this, I’ll focus on some key points that I piqued my interest…
– Though there was nearly no mention of Alberta’s municipalities in the speech, there was a lot of talk of catching up and building modern infrastructure. I’m assuming this means that Ed Stelmach had nothing to do with Alberta falling behind on infrastructure development while he was Minister of Infrastructure & Transportation from 1999 to 2004.
– As had been previously semi-announced, Health Care Premiums are on the chopping block within four years. I’m not sure why it’s going to take four years (I assume a 37-year-old government can only move so fast), but this is generally a positive step that Alberta’s opposition parties and public interest groups been advocating for over the past decade.
– Ed Stelmach has made a commitment to remain vigilant in his fight the Pine Beetle. I’m not sure how Stelmach is planning to fight the beetles, but I can’t help but imagine Ed Stelmach and Ray Danyluk running around the forest dressed up like Batman and Robin and squishing thousands of helpless little Pine Beetles with the bottoms of their boots. Go get ’em, Ed!
The Edmonton Journal’s Graham Thomsons picked up a good point raised by Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft as to why Ed Stelmach was using the taxpayer provided Legislature Media Conference room for what was essentially a campaign launch announcement (equipped with PC Campaign Staff). I was standing in the back of the room during the media conference and it was interesting to see Stelmach is slowly beginning to improve his public speaking skills compared to when he became Premier a year ago.
Ed Stelmach may be slowly improving his public speaking skills, but he’ll need to do better than he did yesterday if he’s serious about communicating with Albertans in a meaningful way over the next 28 days.
– Edmonton-Glenora: Arlene Chapman has replaced Brian Fleck as the ND candidate in this constituency after Fleck dropped out of the race. Chapman will face Alberta Liberal MLA Bruce Miller and Tory candidate Heather Klimchuk in a constituency that generated one of the hottest races in 2004. But by showing up this late in the race, it could be difficult for Chapman to make her mark in this race.
– Edmonton-Strathcona: Tory candidate Hughena Gagne has reportedly dropped out of the race, leaving the Stelmach Tories candidate-less on the eve of an election call. Strathcona is being contested by Alberta Liberal Tim Vant, ND Rachel Notley, and Green Adrian Cole.
Having given the platform a read, I’m fairly pleased with it. It succeeds in presenting positive alternatives to Ed Stelmach‘s 37-year-old Tory government and outlines five key policies including immediately eliminating health care premiums, re-regulating Alberta’s out-of-control electricity utilities, investing 30% of all royalties, capping greenhouse gases in five years, and providing hospitals and training new health care professionals that Alberta needs. On a more specific note, I was pleased to see that this plan includes the re-legislation of Alberta’s post-secondary tuition policy, which was de-legislated by the Tories in May 2007 (allowing tuition policy to be changed in closed-door Cabinet meetings rather than in open public debate in the Legislature). The plan also includes reforming campaign finance rules, fixing election dates, and the creating a Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform to study other forms of election systems.
Not unexpectedly, Tory spinsters have already begun to criticize Taft’s plan for either:
a) including too much spending, or b) not including enough spending details.
Both criticisms seem a little rich when you look at the pile of giant novelty cheques that Ed Stelmach has been handing out over the past two weeks.
It has also been interesting to watch the difference between the Kevin Taft of the 2004 election and Kevin Taft in 2008. Taft has become more comfortable in his role in public and is starting to show his fun-side during speeches by energizing and interacting more with the crowd (something that he should do more of during the upcoming campaign). Here’s one quote of the speech that I particularly enjoyed:
Is it any wonder then, that the issue over-riding all others is that after 37 years, it is time for a fresh start. This morning, on national radio, Peter Lougheed was asked, “Can one party be in power too long?”
His answer? (Quote.) “Never did I anticipate that our party would exceed the time in office that Social Credit were in office. I remember campaigning back in 1971 – can you believe this Social Credit party has been in office for 36 years. It is a problem for the current party to be in office for that length of time.” (End quote.)
And I say, and all of us say, and Albertans in growing numbers are saying, let’s… fix… that… problem.
With a growing group of Albertans (and former Tory voters) parking their votes in the undecided column in pre-election polls, Taft’s challenge will be to convince those Albertans that he and his party can provide the solid management and real plan that Albertans are looking for after 37-years under Progressive Conservative governments.
Here are the YouTube videos of Kevin Taft’s 2008 election campaign launch:
Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft launched his party’s election campaign by releasing their platform and plan for the future at last night’s Alternate Speech from the Throne (which doubled as a campaign rally). I’ll take some time later this afternoon to write a more in depth post the platform and the energy at the rally, but until then you can check out the Alberta Liberal plan “It’s Time” for yourself.
– An Alberta provincial general election call is expected within days – a February 4 or 5 writ drop following the Speech from the Thone is what most pundits are pointing towards. In preparation for the 2008 Alberta Election, I am planning to highlight and profile (as well as make some bold predictions) some of the ‘hot races’ in constituencies across Alberta. I’m making a list of ‘hot races’ to cover, so if you have any suggestions or ideas, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft was in Ontario yesterday speaking to the Economic Club of Toronto about his plan to transform Alberta into a Western Economic Tiger and how other provinces can take part of Alberta’s oil-boom wealth. Taft announced the Alberta Liberal plan to replace natural gas rebates with incentives to encourage energy efficiency. Providing incentives for energy efficiency is smart long-term strategy, but the optics of announcing the replacement of natural gas rebates while it’s -54C outside might not make fans of short-term thinkers.
The provincial Progressive Conservatives have won a prolonged court battle against some of their own members, a ruling that further muddies when or if the Tories will nominate a candidate in the riding of Calgary-Montrose.
But the decision also leaves several volunteers of the local riding association on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills and could result in foreclosures on their homes.
MLA Hung Pham won’t seek a fifth term as the Progressive Conservative candidate in Calgary-Montrose, blasting his own party on the eve of an election for lying, making “poor decisions” and taking “dishonourable” actions.
In a letter to his constituency board last weekend, the Tory backbencher scolded the party for doing nothing to help local volunteers with their huge legal bills — and accuses the party of having “lied” about its role in constituency politics.
He questioned how the party handled “millions of dollars” of its own funds.
Edmonton-Strathcona – Edmonton-Strathcona candidate Tim Vant was joined by Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft as he was nominated as the Alberta Liberal candidate at a packed nomination party last Thursday. Vant is a the owner and manager of popular Edmonton-Strathcona restaurant Fiore’s Italian Cantina. Vant is a lifelong resident of the Edmonton area and a staunch supporter of Edmonton’s arts community. Three-term NDP MLA Raj Pannu is not seeking re-election.
Red Deer-South – Former Red Deer Public School Trustee Diane Kubanek has been nominated as the Alberta Liberal candidate. Kubanek will face-off with rookie Tory candidate Cal Dallas. Four-term Tory MLA Victor Doerksen is not seeking re-election.
Strathmore-Brooks – Arno Doerksen was nominated as the PC candidate to replace retiring Tory Finance Minister Lyle Oberg. Doerksen defeated Mara Nesbitt and Don Weisbeck in the second ballot of Tory voting.
Wetaskiwin-Camrose – The Alberta Greens have nominated their Elections Coordinator Midge Lambert. Watch for a strong push by the Greens in Central Alberta constituencies such as Ponoka-Lacombe and a hand full of Calgary constituencies.
“Being 100 years old means a lot of deferred maintenance.”
The U of A being 100 years old [and doing a piss poor job of taking care of public infrastructure] means a lot of deferred maintenance.
It’s about properly maintaining the public infrastructure so that the generator in university *Building Z* that was meant to last 30 years actually lasts 30 years (and not only 10 or 15 years). It’s about not only taking past investments into public infrastructure seriously, but taking current public funds and taxpayers dollars seriously. It’s about having a plan.
With roughly half-a-billion dollars in deferred maintenance at the U of A alone, it’s clear that the those in the University of Alberta administration and in the Tory Government charged with the responsibility of maintaining the public infrastructure in Alberta’s post-secondary sector haven’t been taking that responsibility seriously.
As has been written about numerous times over the past couple days, a group calling themselves “Albertans for Change” have released a series of attack ads aimed at Ed Stelmach in the run up to the expected February/March provincial election. I’ve had a number of thoughts on this topic over the last couple days.
It should be interesting to see how Albertans react to these attack ads. Albertans aren’t usually exposed to such advertising in their living rooms, so is this a sign to come for the next election? It’s disappointing that the two groups who seem to be behind Albertans for Change, the Alberta Federation of Labour and the Alberta Building Trades Council, didn’t roll out the ads more publicly. I think this may have given some people the idea that they were trying to hide who they were (which I don’t think they were).
On the subject of the ads themselves… I’m not exactly their biggest fan, but I don’t think I’m their target audience. It will be interesting to see how they play out in defining Ed Stelmach as Premier (as attack ads have helped to define another political party leader). A year into his term, Ed Stelmach is still struggling to define himself and there are no shortage of Albertans (including Albertans for Change) who are racing to beat him to the punch.
On this topic, this email ended up in my inbox yesterday…
Graham Thompson’s and Jason Fekete’s articles in Tuesday’s Edmonton Journal caught my eye. In particular I was taken by the outrage of Stelmach’s spokesman Tom Olsen. He accused the ads’ sponsors of “firing from the shadows” and urged them to release the full cost of their campaign and who was funding it.
In the spirit of openness that seems like a reasonable request to make.
I’m not saying there are.The problem is we just don’t know.
Mr. Stelmach and his public relations team work hard to create the image of an honest down-to-earth politician. Revealing the names of the mystery donors would add some much-needed substance to that image.