As I mentioned earlier today, I spent a good portion of yesterday evening lurking through the crowd at the Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership forum at the Mayfield Inn in Edmonton.
Though there were a ton of folks there, the energy levels were fairly subdued for such a high profile political event (no standing ovations or raucus supporters). I was pleased to see that Public Interest Alberta’s Seniors Task Force was there in full force with a demonstration set up at the back of the hall. Also, fellow blogging types Duncan, Allie, Nic, Alex, and Will there. I also chatted with Mark Lisac and said hi to Graham Thomson and Steve Patten.
I was also able to collect a significant amount of political swag while cruising the gauntlet of candidates tables – including “Oberg for Alberta” and “I’m Supportn’ Morton” t-shirts and buttons from almost every leadership camp (I missed Ed Stelmach’s table, I think it may have been sitting quietly at the back of the cabinet room…). So, 10 chickens for the person who can collect me a commemorative Ed Stelmach leadership campaign button…
Anyway… to the less substantive part of the evening…
As soon as the opening speeches began, it was clear that the candidates for the Tory leadership were carrying overly tailored messages about how great Edmonton was and how important it is to make sure that Edmonton is still the capital/becomes the capital again. With all this pro-Edmonton talk, it should be interesting to see what is talked about in the Tories upcoming Calgary forum. Also, with the exception of Ted Morton, most of the agreed on most issues confirming the recent news headline “Widespread Agreement Dominates Leadership Debate.“
Here are exerts from my rough notes…
Dave Hancock – He is from Edmonton.
Ted Morton – He is a champion of the middle class.
Mark Norris – He “get’s it.”
Gary McPherson – Something about a horny toad (I’m lost in explaining this).
Jim Dinning – Thinks Edmonton is great and wants a new deal for cities (sound familiar?).
Victor Doerksen – He talked about putting a value on water.
Lyle Oberg – He wants 10-year term limits for the Premier and loves Edmonton.
On to the questions…
Ed Stelmach – Has a special place in his heart for seniors.
Mark Norris – His parents are seniors, so “he get’s it” (he talked about his parents a number of times during the evening).
Topic: Teacher’s Pension Liability
Ted Morton – Fire weak teachers.
Mark Norris – Blamed the Alberta Teacher’s Association.
Jim Dinning – Alberta is not debt free.
Topic: Young Offenders Act
Ted Morton – blamed the Federal Liberals. More crown prosecutors needed. Adopt Canadian Alliance and Reform Party justice policies.
Mark Norris – No time for talk.
Jim Dinning – I agree. “We’re gonna getcha.”
Lyle Oberg – Fundamentally against the Young Offenders Act!
Dave Hancock – His opponents should catch up with the times, the Young Offenders Act was replaced 5 years ago… (bamn! 5 points for Dave Hancock)
Jim Dinning – Edmonton is great! Something about nuggets of gold in Edmonton’s ethnic communities.
Lyle Oberg – Renovate the Legislature grounds. Supports a Premier’s residence in Edmonton (like a Governor’s Mansion?).
Victor Doerksen – Nanotechnology is great!
Ed Stelmach – I agree, Edmonton is great. Something about research and technology.
Dave Hancock – Edmonton is great! I live in Edmonton! Renovate the Royal Museum.
Ted Morton – Edmonton is the capital! A Premier’s residence is needed.
Mark Norris – Vote for me! I’m from Edmonton! (and it is great!).
Topic: Open and Accountable Government
Dave Hancock – Open up the Legislature, make the policy process more public.
Ted Morton – Federal Liberals are evil. I love Stephen Harper.
Mark Norris – I released my campaign contributions! (-5 points for being off topic).
Jim Dinning – Listen to what the people want and report back in six months (what?).
Lyle Oberg – Term-limits.
Topic: Post-Secondary Education
Ted Morton – I taught at the University of Calgary. Move up post-secondary institutions. I like endowments!
Mark Norris – Re-legislate tuition, increase spaces, 20% of student debt remitted if you stay in Alberta.
Gary McPherson – RESP’s.
Jim Dinning – Fill up the $3 Billion Access to the Future endowment (private-public matching contributions), withdraw Alberta out of the Canada Student Loan Program.
Victor Doerksen – Athabasca University is good.
Lyle Oberg – Increase 30,000 spaces, free tuition for elite achievers, and Student debt for everyone!
Ed Stelmach – more co-op programs.
Dave Hancock – Free tuition for first year, tax credits, new spaces.
Topic: Will you run in the next election?
Lyle Oberg – Yes. Regardless of what happens. Public service is a commitment to Albertans.
Ed Stelmach – If he doesn’t get a kick in the butt by his constituents.
Dave Hancock – Yes.
Ted Morton – Yes.
Mark Norris – Yes. He got kicked in the butt last time around in Edmonton McClung (by Liberal Mo Elsalhy)
Gary McPherson – Intends to run.
Jim Dinning – Gary McPherson would be a great MLA. Yes.
Victor Doerksen – Will make that commitment sooner to the next election.
Dave Hancock had the best closing speech, he was fiery and on the attack (his shots at Ted Morton were particularly enjoyable). If he had this much energy 6 months ago, I think he could be one of the frontrunners today. Unfortunately, he ran out of time and had his microphone cut off.
Mark Norris had a decent end speech, though his overall performance was high on rhetoric and low on actual substance (again, he brought up his parent’s from Pigeon Lake at least 6 or 7 times during the forum).
Ted Morton was typically himself. Ideological, hates Liberals, right-wing, and negative. Brought up Stockwell Day and the Canadian Alliance a number of times. A lot of shots were fired at the Calgary backroom boys and corporate types (Jim Dinning).
Jim Dinning was what I expected. If I were his staff, I would keep him as far away as possible from as many of these forums as possible. The longer he speaks at these events, the more people are going to realize how shockingly boring he is. The dauphin of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives is not as sparkling as the spin doctors would like you to think.
I tend to agree with Nic that Lyle Oberg’s momentum for 2nd place looks like it’s slowing down. His performance was quite lackluster.
Ed Stelmach. Ed Stelmach. I hate to say it (because I actually like Ed Stelmach), but I hardly remember a thing he said. He blended in to the crowd and was easily forgettable. Though I tend to think he’ll do better than most people think.
Best Part of the Evening Award
The teleprompter and the typos. “Ed Stem-cell.” Priceless.
Overall, there was very little substance or new ideas thrown around during the forum.
I was truely bored for the most part.