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Drumheller reality check, pt. 2

If you get a chance, be sure to check out the mind-blowing exchange over the Tuesday Alberta by-elections that took place during the "At Issue" panel discussion on the National last night. On the strength of the Calgary-Elbow results [discussed here], Chantal Hébert chose Kevin Taft as her pick for the biggest "Future Newsmaker" of the next 12 months ("I looked up his name!"), which, since I have a lot of respect for Chantal Hébert, fills me with terror at the possibility that I may at some time have written or said something equally preposterous about Quebec politics. CBC panelists aren't placed under oath or anything before the broadcast: a little silliness is allowable. But they proceeded to crank up the surrealism when Allan Gregg asked "Yeah, when was the last time the Liberals won a seat in Calgary?" and Ms. Hébert replied "I think 36 years was what I saw." The Liberals currently hold three Calgary seats in the legislature, so this answer was only off by a factor of about ten.

But Jim Dinning, wherever he may be, will no doubt be comforted to hear that both these experts on Alberta politics are in complete agreement that the Conservative Party picked the wrong guy. [þ: Bryan Rogers]


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Comments (13)

A rather large Alberta contigent was convinced that the PCs did indeed choose the wrong person. Dinnings comfort had better come from media panelists living east of Brandon, because most of the PC voters I've heard who were upset with Stelmach were wishing they'd voted for Door Number Three.


I suspect that much of what's dragging the PCs down is the Klein hangover. After 1998, Klein seemed to have lost his purpose as Premier, and dithered along on autopilot. Many of the problems that the province is experiencing seem to be exacerbating by the lack of leadership since the boom began in earnest. Admittedly, I'm no longer particularly plugged into Alberta politics as a resident of BC, but I don't see any dramatic policy initiatives coming from Ed Stelmach either. However, Kevin Taft also seems bereft of any compelling policy, and a Liberal government would bring exactly zero governing experience to power with them. That sounds like a recipe for the disastrous governments produced by first-time NDP victories in Ontario and BC in the early '90s.

Garth Wood:

I'm no fan of Kevin Taft or the provincial Liberals in Alberta (full disclosure: I did do some door-to-door stumping for and with Larry Decore in the early 90s 'cause I liked the guy, thought he made a good Oppo leader and went to Uni with his wife), but the argument against the Libs taking power because they have "zero governing experience" is, as I've pointed out elsewhere, a thinly-veiled argument that the incumbent party should remain in power forever.

Short of creating SimAlberta (or, Federally, SimCanada), the way political parties get governing experience is to be voted into office, whereupon they govern.  It is a necessary evil in our political system that sometimes parties with no such experience triumph over incumbents who desperately need booting out (Paul Martin Liberals, anyone?).

That being said, the PCs here in Alberta aren't either incompetent or especially, egregiously corrupt, particularly when compared with such luminaries as, say, the Ontario government -- they're just drifting, and don't seem to be managing public expectations well vis-á-vis Alberta's rather explosive growth at the moment.  Just as there will never be another Trudeau, there will never be another Klein, but don't count Stelmach out yet as a Premier that might last in a caretaker role for quite some time.

After all, it worked for Chretien for well over a decade.

How innacurate is her 36 years if you substitute provincial Liberals for federal Liberals?

I think you have to go back to Pat Mahoney in '68, so it's not too far off, but what do the federal Liberals have to do with Kevin Taft?

Mike Jenkinson:

Wasn't Bobbie Sparrow a Calgary Liberal MP in the early 1990s?

Mike Jenkinson:

Ah. Well. Nevermind then.

(That's what I get for posting from poor memory on a Friday afternoon on little sleep rather than, you know, looking it up.)

George Skinner:

One more thought: the Alberta "two premier" rule may still apply. The change in ideology from the Lougheed/Getty governments to the Klein government was comparable to the previous change from Socred to Conservative. The Klein government might be seen as a different PC party under the same name rather than a continuation of a political dynasty. Certainly, insiders of the previous government like Nancy Betkowski didn't find the Klein government a terribly welcoming place. The common thread still seems to be that Albertans demand leadership and fresh thinking, and don't tolerate politicians who've run out of steam and muddle along on autopilot.


George Skinner: What happens when two leaders with strongly held views divide the party and a less qualified candidate slips into power? Anyone have an obscure re-call rule handy?

I mean lordy, this is like watching Mr. Magoo.

Garth Wood: If Stelmach is going to last a decade, he's going to have to start either getting better advice or listening to different people.

Garth Wood:

Both of which are certainly possible.

And, like Chretien, all he really has to do is keep a certain percentage of the constituency placid and content, and be a caretaker (never make any real decisions).  He doesn't have to have massive, almost comical majorities to govern.  Chretien never cared if he alienated certain portions of the electorate (indeed, he almost seemed to relish the chance to do so).  He simply cared that they remained a minority.

In saying the above, I'm certainly not saying "I approve."  It's just that it's not necessary to silence grumblers in order to retain power.

"I think you have to go back to Pat Mahoney in '68, so it's not too far off, but what do the federal Liberals have to do with Kevin Taft?"


I was just wondering if perhaps she had a brain fart of some kind. That's all. If she can get that close to the right answer for the federal Liberals, even though she was talking about the provincial Liberals, then it wouldn't be completely unreasonable to suggest that she mistook some federal trivia as provincial trivia.


While Smilin' Ed and the PC's may be on the wane, Dinnign sure as heck wasn't a better choice for Alberta.

From his Principal Group days through to soft and squishy patronage gigs in the Licence to Print Money® business' of regulated power -Dinning is hardly more than a back-slapping baby-kisser of a different stripe. He's certainly no leader.

And he certainly isn't accomplished outside of being an effective political bagman.

Whether Stelmach is successful for the Tories will wait until next spring, but one lone outpost in Cowpatch won't see a stampede of voters to the Libs. This is Alberta for heaven sakes.

+15 seats for Taft will hardly be an earthquake.


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