Danielle Smith Dave Taylor David Sands Ed Stelmach Edwin Erickson Gene Zwozdesky Jerry Toews Jim Gurnett Joe Anglin Ralph Klein Ron Liepert Tom Olsen

upside-down week.

Shuffling the deck.

Long-time Government spokesperson Jerry Bellikka replaces Tom Olsen as spokesman for Premier Ed Stelmach (Olsen now becomes Alberta’s Olympic Spokesperson in Vancouver). Former MLA Jim Gurnett replaces Jerry Toews as Chief of Staff at the NDP caucus. Instead of laughing at satire, PAB blogger David Sands leaves Twitter altogether. Taking a more open approach to the media than his predecessor, Health & Wellness Minister Gene Zwozdeskys cell phone number is now showing up on Government media releases.

Not your father’s NEP

With new Energy Minister Ron Liepert‘s mandate to reclaim PC dominance over energy sector support from Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Alliance, the Liberals do not want to be left out. Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor is leading his party’s 180-degree policy change from their previous position that resource royalties are too low. On the policy change, Mount Royal University Professor Bruce Foster told FFWD:

“It seems as if the Liberals didn’t take the lead on this or didn’t distinguish themselves and now they’re playing catch-up,” he says.

Calgary Grit has more.

Alberta Party of Alberta

Former deputy leader of the now-defunct Alberta Green Party Edwin Erickson is now leader of the Alberta Party. In the last election, Erickson placed second with 19% of the vote against Tory Diana McQueen in Drayton Valley-Calmar. Erickson and Joe Anglin led the fight against Bill 50 and Erickson had publicly mused about creating the Progress Party of Alberta. The Alberta Party has existed in a number of forms since 1986, but has never been competitive (highest support: leader Mark Waters earned 1,200 votes in Calgary-Currie in 1993).

Ralph University

Olds College has re-named their Community Learning Centre after former Premier Ralph Klein and not everyone in Olds is enamoured with the decision.

Ed Stelmach Ted Morton Tom Olsen

tom olsen on ted morton in 2005: "smug. arrogant."

In the bizarre world of interrelationships in Alberta politics, former Calgary Herald columnist Tom Olsen, who is now Premier Ed Stelmach‘s spokesperson, had some severe words for now-Finance Minister Ted Morton when he chose not to invite the media to breakfast with his supporters. Mr. Olsen penned a vicious critique of Morton on his Herald blog on April 8, 2005:

You might start to believe the whispers that Ted Morton isn’t planning on running for Ralph Klein’s job if his treatment of the media is any indication.
Ted’s having a breakfast Saturday April 9, bright and early (so it doesn’t conflict with any Tory annual general meeting stuff) but he didn’t want to talk about.
“I have breakfast every morning,” he told reporters asking why the early morning event.
“I often meet with friends,” he said, when asked who’d be there.
Smug. Arrogant.
Those are just two of the applicable terms.
Maybe he’s intimidated by the cameras, so has to cover up his insecurity with what he perhaps believes is cleverness.
Bad strategy, though, to anger the media.
“Doesn’t make you want to write anything nice about him,” said one hack, after witnessing Morton’s brief performance.
You need us Ted. Alienation is not step a leadership hopeful should take.

Five years later, it now turns out that Mr. Olsen’s boss needs Ted. I understand that people’s opinions change from time to time, but this was some pretty irrationally harsh commentary and biased journalism on behalf of Mr. Olsen.

Read much more at Civitatensis.

Andrew Beniuk Bob Clark Connie Osterman Dan Backs Don MacDonald Ed Stelmach Gene Zwozdesky Gordon Kesler Julius Yankowski Paul Langevin Ron Glen Stan Woloshyn Thomas Lukaszuk Tom Olsen

from one rentier state to another.

“Under the Patronage of H.H. H.H. General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forced,” Premier Ed Stelmach will be attending the World Future Energy Summit, thus delaying an expected cabinet shuffle. What had previously been speculation has now been confirmed as delayed by two weeks according to the Premier’s spokesperson Tom Olsen.

Premier Stelmach did not attend the recent COP15 conference in Copenhagen, but will be speaking, along with Carbon Capture Czar Jim Carter in Abu Dhabi. If he has the chance, the Premier should take a look at how Rentier States like the UAE (more specifically Dubai) have dealt with hyper-boom situations familiar to Albertans.

No more crossing: Following last week’s floor-crossings, Edmonton-Castle Downs MLA Thomas Lukaszuk has announced that while he may be hypocritical, he will introduce a private members’ bill forbidding MLAs to cross the floor. I expect Independent MLA Guy Boutilier to ask if this Bill will also stop party leaders from kicking out MLAs from the party caucus they were elected into. Since 1993, five opposition MLAs have crossed the floor to join the governing PCs (New Democrat Stan Woloshyn, and Liberals Julius Yankowski, Paul Langevin, Andrew Beniuk, and Gene Zwozdesky). In 2008, MLA Dan Backs, who had been kicked out of the Liberal caucus, failed in his attempt to win the PC nomination in Edmonton-Manning.

Newly floor-crossed Wildrose Alliance MLA Rob Anderson received 62% of the vote as a PC candidate in 2008, but past elections show a more diverse electoral history in the region. In a 1992 by-election following the resignation of Airdrie-Three Hills PC MLA Connie Osterman, voters in that riding elected Liberal Don MacDonald by a 24% margin. MacDonald was defeated in the 1993 election by PC candidate Carol Haley. (and later ran as a Social Credit candidate in Old-Didsbury-Three Hills in the 1997 election). While now considered strong PC territory, the neighbouring riding of Olds-Didsbury-Three Hill did not begin electing PC MLAs until 1982. After the resignation of long-time Social Credit MLA Bob Clark, voters in the riding elected Gordon Kesler of the Western Canadian Concept. Kesler was defeated when he ran for re-election in the Highwood riding.

#AskEd Don Iveson Ed Stelmach Edmonton LRT Jane Batty Karen Leibovici Linda Sloan Tom Olsen Tony Caterina

#yegcc #lrt & #asked

Kudos to Edmonton City Council for voting for the Stony Plain Road and Mill Woods LRT By-Law today, setting the stage for public transit expansion that has been 20 years in the making. Four Councillors voted against the motion, Jane Batty, Karen Leibovici, Linda Sloan, and Tony Caterina. Defending his decision to oppose LRT expansion, Caterina accused his fellow Councillors of:

…imposing their ideology on the city. Caterina also raised concerns that online bloggers had too much influence on the decision. “A number of bloggers — who knows where they come from — are treated as gospel,” he said.

Putting aside that functionally, writing a blog is not much different than writing a letter to the editor or telephoning a City Councillor’s office, I have heard suggestions that Councillor Caterina was taking a shot at Councillor Don Iveson (who writes a blog). Iveson has been a strong advocate for public transit since being elected to City Council in 2007. There are are a number of Edmontonians who publish blogs that focus on urban issues in our City and they should take Councillor Caterina’s complaint as a compliment.

I am told that Councillor Caterina is still a little miffed that his fellow Councillors voted for the phased closure of the Edmonton City Centre Airport earlier this year. During that debate a strong online campaign was launched by a group of passionate Edmontonians (which included I have met Councillor Caterina a number of times and found him to be a fairly nice person, but a string of bizarre comments like this one has left me questioning his critical thinking abilities.


Three “AskEd” YouTube videos have been released with Premier Ed Stelmach responding to questions submitted to his office via email and Twitter. When it was announced I really like the idea, as it has the potential to allow for  Albertans to have some real interaction with Premier Stelmach, and it also allows the Premier to answer questions in an environment that he is comfortable in. Affording Premier Stelmach the ability to avoid the awkwardness of having to answer questions in front of the media or a public audience, the videos appear closer to ‘father figure’ Stelmach responding to questions of his choice than an authentic conversation.

Stelmach spokesperson Tom Olsen said the video responses are a lot like having a conversation with Stelmach in a coffee shop.

The videos are exactly like having a conversation in a coffee shop, especially if the coffee shop is an exact replica of the Premier’s Office and includes a large wooden desk, gavel, and Premier Stelmach reading off a laptop while talking straight into a video camera. Sounds like a typical small-town main street coffee shop to me!

Mastermaq has some good observations on the AskEd videos and DJ Kelly has offered some suggestions on how to fix the Premier’s communications problems.

David Sands Ed Stelmach Public Affairs Bureau Tom Olsen

honesty is the best policy.

After reading the ridiculous/hilarious comments by Tom Olsen (Premier Ed Stelmach‘s Press Spokesperson) in regards to the infamous Northumberland beach photos, I was dreading that I once again felt the need to write about the importance of our elected officials and their partisan employees being responsible and mature in how they communicate with citizens.

I didn’t have much of a problem with the actual photo controversy. I can imagine that after sifting through thousands of photos, it wouldn’t be difficult to make that kind of a mistake. My issue was with the immediate response that came from Premier Stelmach’s spokesperson. Instead of using the honesty required to defuse what amounted to a non-issue, Olsen’s response was to automatically attempt to spin the issue.

Earlier tonight, I was happy to witness a rare moment in Alberta politics. In a post written by David Sands on the Government of Alberta’s $25 million re-branding blog, the Public Affairs Bureau admits to the photo screw up.

While neither the Government Blog writers or the Public Affairs Bureau are composed of the individuals Albertans have elected to fulfill the responsibilities of government (and to take responsibility for the actions that occur under their watch), it’s important to recognize the significance of baby steps. As much as I enjoy the sport of lambasting the shady government communicators, I give kudos to the unelected officials in the Public Affair Bureau for taking responsibility where thier political masters did not.

Honesty is the most effective way to build trust, and both honesty and trust are something that we see too little of in our politics these days.

Dancing up a storm Lyle Oberg Tom Olsen

dancing with the silver fox.

Apologies for the lack of posts over the past couple days. I spent all day yesterday recovering from dancing up a storm with Tom Olsen at Thursday night’s Legislature Press Gallery Christmas Party…

Oberg updates coming soon!

Calgary-Egmont Craig Chandler Ed Stelmach Tom Olsen

is ed stelmach waffling on craig chandler?

The ongoing saga of newly nominated Calgary-Egmont Progressive Conservative candidate Craig Chandler continues as Ed Stelmach is now saying that he wants to meet with Chandler before allowing him to run for his party. This is a confusing about-turn by Stelmach, who refused to take action this August after Chandler declared that:

To those of you who have come to our great land from out of province, you need to remember that you came here to our home and we vote conservative. You came here to enjoy our economy, our natural beauty and more. This is our home and if you wish to live here, you must adapt to our rules and our voting patterns, or leave. Conservatism is our culture. Do not destroy what we have created.

You can watch Stelmach’s original reaction to Chandler’s comment in the video below:

And this is only the beginning in the long list of tasteless comments and declarations from Craig Chandler – just take a browse through Chandler’s online homes – podcasts of the Freedom Radio Network and a webboard called Project Alberta. Yes, Chandler is a grown man who posts on a webboard.

If Stelmach is really going to refuse Chandler’s candidacy, it would have made a lot more sense to have done so before Chandler overwhelmingly defeated Jonathan Denis and Rick Smith in last week’s nomination in Calgary-Egmont. I’m not sure what is different about Chandler now (but I guess that’s what you get when you have someone like Tom Olsen running your media machine…)

For more on the Chandler saga, see Calgary Grit’s extensive post.

Ed Stelmach polls Tom Olsen

can’t buy me love.

Yesterday: Polls released showing Ed Stelmach’s Tories dropping 22-percent in support over the past 7 months from 54% in January to 32% in August. A stunningly large 36% of Albertans polled fell into the ‘undecided’ pool.

Today: Stelmach’s Tories announce $350 million in government building upgrades. Can you smell a desperate reaction?

To the 22-point plunge, Stelmach’s spokesperson, the lovey Tom Olsen responded

The reason the dramatic plunge is “believable,” according to Olsen, is that “hundreds of thousands of new Albertans don’t know the history of Progressive Conservative governments in this province and are spending their time assessing what they see.”

Well, I’m not going to spend much time pointing out the hilariousness of Tom Olsen’s response. I’ll defer to Dan for that.

(Also, click here to see CTV’s news report on the story – click on “Kirk Heuser reports“)

Ed Stelmach Media Paul Stanway Public Affairs Bureau Tom Olsen

the media becomes media affairs.

Not to totally regurgitate an Alberta’s Public Affairs Bureau media release, but this is somewhat significant news:

Edmonton… Two veteran journalists will join Premier Ed Stelmach’s office in key communications roles. Premier Stelmach announced the appointment of Paul Stanway as Director of Communications and Tom Olsen as Director of Media Relations.

Tom Olsen and Paul Stanway are two well-known very predictably Conservative columnists from conservative Calgary newspapers. Olsen’s brother worked as part of Ralph Klein’s communications team back in the 1990’s. Other than bringing in two right-wing media pundits into his inner circle, it’s too early to tell how this move will turn out for Stelmach. I guess it may depend on how good of a relationship these two actually have with their soon to be former collegues.

It should also be interesting to look up what Stelmach’s two new spin-doctors have written about him in the past. Google is both a wonderful and dangerous thing.