alberta politics: 3 things more important than hal walker that happened today.

Today’s much hyped Wildrose Alliance news conference in Calgary did not live up to expectations. When announced yesterday that leader Danielle Smith would “be making an important political announcement” about the her party, the speculation was rampant. Was Preston Manning signing his endorsement pledge? Was Tom Flanagan going be their campaign manager? Was Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Heather Forsyth going to step down to let Ms. Smith to run in a by-election? Were more PC MLAs going to cross the floor?

The news turned out to be ever so underwhelming. Party president Jeff Calloway has stepped down to allow disenchanted former Ralph Klein advisor Hal Walker to enter the role. Last September, Mr. Walker let it be known to the world that he strongly disliked Premier Ed Stelmach when he widely circulated an email that oozed the with entitlement of a longtime-insder who no longer had the ear of the powerful. The underwhelming announcement sparked a some very entertaining social media satire from the political crowd on Twitter this afternoon (follow #waptopstory to see what I mean).

While the underwhelming story of Mr. Walker and the hilarious online reaction grabbed headlines, do not be convinced that nothing important happened today in Alberta politics. Here are three things that you should be paying attention to:

1) Edmonton-Rutherford PC MLA Fred Horne has announced the start of consultations for a new Alberta Health Act. The Act would seek to merge currently existing health care laws under one piece of mega-legislation. As was the case when the PCs created the Post-secondary Learning Act in 2003, the devil will be in the details of what is left in legislation and what will be moved into regulation (or just left out). In a media release, Friends of Medicare‘s David Eggen said: “The Alberta Hospitals Act, and the Alberta Health Care Insurance Act both provide core legal underpinnings for our public system. If they are repealed and not strengthened under the new legislation, it could open the doors wide for a full two-tiered, parallel private health market in the province immediately.”

2) Premier Stelmach announced on the Rutherford Show this morning that Alberta will not be holding a Senate election anytime soon. The terms of Alberta’s current three Senators-in-Waiting will expire in November 2010, but instead of holding an election to replace them, Premier Stelmach and his cabinet will decide in a closed door cabinet meeting to extend their terms. Aside from being anti-democratic, the move also undercuts the opposition parties who were preparing for a Senate election to coincide with the October municipal elections. The Wildrose Alliance began seeking Senate candidates last week and I am told that the new Alberta Party was also organizing a campaign to support a candidate this fall. At this point, Premier Stelmach might as well appoint the Senators-in-Waiting.

3) Alberta’s new Mental Health Patient Advocate is longtime PC-insider Fay Orr. Ms. Orr worked as a media relation advisor to now Senator Elaine McCoy in the early 1990s and in the 1993 election she was the PC candidate in Edmonton-Norwood (she placed third behind Liberal Andrew Beniuk and New Democrat Ray Martin). Following the election, she served as Premier Klein’s spokesperson and was appointed as managing director of the Public Affairs Bureau in 2000 (a position where current PAB Director of New Media and Internet Communications Tom Olsen described her as ‘the chief of all Alberta government talking heads‘). Soon after that, Ms. Orr served as Deputy Minister for a number of Departments, including Community Development; and Government Services, and until today, the Department of Children and Youth Services.

8 replies on “alberta politics: 3 things more important than hal walker that happened today.”

Dave, do you see the Fay Orr move as an indication fo a change of SNAFU in Children and Youth Services?

Linda: That might be the case. Former Minister Janis Tarchuk was booted from cabinet in January, maybe a comfy patronage appointment was a friendlier way of convincing a long-time political insider to depart her role.

Who cares what Stelmach says. He has no credibility and if he even dares runs, he will lose. All his behaviours exhibit someone who is fearful.

He is a lame duck premier.

As we know from the plans to gradually shut down or at least limit the services provided by Alberta Hospital, this government does not give a rat’s ass about the mentally ill. So it makes perfectly good sense to give a long-time party hack with no obvious experience in the area of mental illness the position of Mental Health Patient Advocate. What should be seen as a key position for helping some of the most vulnerable people in the province is viewed instead as simply a job for one of the government’s minions.

There would have to be a large-scale increase in the provincial health and social services budgets to deal seriously with mental illness, which affects 1 in 5 Canadians and therefore close to a majority of households. Instead, this government tries to minimize the problem by classifying the 80 percent of the mentally ill who also have some form of addiction as unworthy of medical attention. Seen as the ‘undeserving mentally ill,’ they are routinely booted out of the emergency rooms at U of A and the Royal Alex, and while Grey Nun and Alberta Hospital are more compassionate, they don’t have enough beds to deal with all the cases.

Then there’s the growing problem–or perhaps just growing awareness–of FASD, which Manitoba has been taking seriously but which Alberta still treats as something requiring only minor interventions, interventions limited almost exclusively to youth.

The government’s attitude on mental health issues, as on children’s services, or on homelessness are a constant of Alberta politics, hardly a surprise since Tory governments have been a constant. Nothing will change until the right-wing is finally ousted from power in Alberta, and notions of basic civic decency replace the devil-take-the-hindmost attitudes that govern this province.

Great Blog! Stelmach is running afraid. He would rather not hold and election than lose it to the WIldrose Alliance.

It’s time for a better party that isn’t as extreme and ideological to be led by Danielle Smith.

Stelmach is proving how scared he is now. These are the last gasps of a soon to be extinct party. They have alienated themselves from all Albertans.

As far as Danielle Smith being an extremist you are so far out to lunch it amazing, I’ve met the woman and your not even close. I have read Joe Albertan’s blog and you my freind are definitely not him, you do nothing but run down Danielle Smith and WRA every time you post something. All you accomplish is making a fool out of yourself.

Just came across this story when researching Fay Orr lately. As a social work student, one of my year-end projects revolved around researching high level officials in Children and Youth Services. I chose to analyze the Ministry’s leadership during the summer 2009 crisis. After intense analysis, my conclusion was that Fay Orr and Janis Tarchuk were actually well-performing officials, simply victims of unfortunate happenings that were completely out of their control. A main point in my thesis was that the Minister and DM CANNOT control the actions of Albertans in a lot of ways (i.e. they can’t control whether a mom kills their child)

We need to stop blaming these people who are doing the best possible job. It’s a seemingly thankless task

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