Alberta Politics

Hope and Debt

Alison Redford Debt Alberta
“Debt” we can believe in?

The political battle between the Wildrose opposition and long-governing Progressive Conservatives continued today as the Legislative Assembly resumed for the fall sitting. Debt was the biggest issue of the day. Wildrose leader Danielle Smith jumped at the opportunity to make light of comments Premier Alison Redford made that compared the government’s decision to accept debt financing as “hope.”

“Let’s take some of the premier’s other quotes and sub in ‘hope’ for ‘debt’ and see if that makes sense. Alberta does not have hope, and we will not incur hope. We cannot come out the current fiscal situation with hope.”
“So to the premier, if debt is hope, when can we expect to once again be hope free?”
– Danielle Smith

After a decade of worshiping an anti-debt orthodoxy that defined former Premier Ralph Klein‘s era in Alberta politics, the natural governing party changed their tune. Abandoning the culture of “no debt” that they created has undoubtably been difficult for the PCs as they embraced a new faith in capital financing. It makes fiscal sense if you want to plan for the long-term, but in the Alberta context, it symbolizes an awkward culture shift for a political party that defined itself by this rally cry.

Cabinet shuffle rumours

If there is any truth to the cabinet shuffle rumours that have been circulating in political circles, it would not be unexpected for Ms. Redford to hit the reset button after she faces a mandatory leadership review in November (I anticipate PC activists will approve of her leadership). It may surprise Albertans to discover that twenty-seven of fifty-nine PC MLAs currently serve in some ministerial or associate ministerial role (that’s 45% of the government caucus).

Doug Griffiths
Doug Griffiths

Three cabinet ministers who have caused particular difficulty for the government  and should be candidates to be shuffled are Education minister Jeff Johnson, Municipal Affairs minister Doug Griffiths, and Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk.

Mr. Johnson has earned the distain of teachers and schools boards officials for his clumsy handling of the last year’s Alberta Teachers’ Association contract negotiations and the ensuing financial havoc wreaked on the education employers.

Mr. Griffiths has locked horns with Calgary’s popular mayor Naheed Nenshi too many times to be seen as an effective minister. The election of Don Iveson as mayor of Edmonton could help convince the Premier that perhaps she needs a more effective communicators in the increasingly important municipal affairs role.

Ramming through the Redford government’s cuts to post-secondary education, the powerful Mr. Lukaszuk frequently speaks as if he leads the government, leading some conservatives to suggest he has leadership ambitions of his own. Some conservatives have begun noticing similarities between Mr. Lukaszuk and former Deputy Premier Ken Kowalski.

In the first few years of Mr. Klein’s administration, Mr. Kowalski served in a powerhouse role as Deputy Premier and the unofficial “Minister of Everything.” At the time, some Tories suggested that Mr. Kowalski was actually running the government, which raised the ire of Mr. Klein. Perhaps not surprisingly, Mr. Kowalski was unceremoniously booted from the halls of power by Mr. Klein mid-way through his government’s first-term.

The curious case of Doug Elniski

Former Conservative Member of Parliament Brent Rathgeber isn’t the only former Edmonton-Calder PC MLA to go rogue. Former PC MLA Doug Elniski announced days ago that he had joined the Wildrose Party and was attending that party’s policy convention last weekend. Mr. Elniski was the second PC MLAs to endorse Ms. Redford in her bid for the PC leadership and stood at her side when she spoke to the media following her win in that race. He did not seek re-election in 2012.

Showing a surprising lack of class, Ms. Redford’s communications director Stefan Baranski took to Twitter to attack the former PC MLA for controversial comments he made years ago. It appears that many of Ms. Redford’s staff spent their weekend posting juvenile and sarcastic tweets about the opposition party’s gathering. Apparently this is how senior government staff spend their weekends these days.


12 replies on “Hope and Debt”

Doug Elniski’s comments were not “years ago.” It was only four years ago when he made those foolish comments

June 13, 2009 on Elniski’s own website:
“Men are attracted to smiles, so smile and don’t give me that ‘treated equal’ stuff, if you want equal it comes in little packages at Starbucks.”
“There is nothing a man wants less than a woman scowling because he thinks he is going to get shit for something and has no idea what.”

In addition, he spewed more foolishness on the same day, June 13, 2009, on Twitter:
“bikini car wash 82 129 ave girls look cold (…)”

Thanks for the comment, Ty. That is correct, Mr. Elniski made those comments years ago while he was a PC MLA. While the comments were certainly inappropriate, I never had the impression that Mr. Elniski made them in a mean-spirited manner. And in both cases he was quick to apologize.

Clumsy implies a lack of motive. Perhaps a more accurate characterization of Minister Johnson’s “handling” of the education file would be thuggish.

The “lack of class” from the Premier’s communications director is no longer surprising – it is par for the course, and juvenile.

What is even more annoying is that he spouts that drivel on MY dime!

When the PC party divided in to two halves, the group that entered politics to advance their principals and values became the Wild Rose. The group that are in politics just for power remained as the PCs. You can dislike the Wild Rose platform if you want, but you always get better government, be it right or left policies, when the people involved are there for some semblance of a higher purpose.

The Redfords, Lukaszuks & Johnsons of the world are all that remain in the PC party. People who seek power for powers sake, and have substantive ideas about what to do with it. The only reason they’re still in power is because Albertans haven’t been offered a credible alternative in ages. Wild Rose came close last time, and they’ll probably come even closer in the next go around. Hopefully progressives can finally find some semblance of real leadership & organization to stake their own ground in the next election.

Wildrose will NEVER be government until they dump Danielle Smith as leader. She holds the party back and doesn’t have what it takes.

While a cabinet shuffle is imminent I would argue that Lukaszuk is not going anywhere. He is in a particularly unpopular portfolio and is one of the few ministers capable of handling the constant criticism. Additionally, if he does have leadership aspirations leaving him in a role with constant negativity would seem a wise move by the Premier. Minister Horne is more likely candidate for shuffle given the current state of AHS.

In response to Neal’s post, I almost spit coffee all over my laptop. Can you honestly argue with a straight face that Rob Anderson is in politics for some concept of the greater good? Or Shayne Saskiw for that matter?

Baranski should be commended for not being held back for fear of being politically incorrect. What he said about Elniski is true and people need to remember this.

Speaking of comments made years ago, suggest putting up a new quote about yourself for the front page of your fine blog, Dave. Waugh’s is getting a bit dated 😉

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