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Once in a blue moon

My personal pick for Monday's Alberta general election is revealed in today's column for the National Post. It may not surprise you, but it surprised me.


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Comments (32)

Is the ridiculously long-lived success of the Alberta Conservatives (is it unprecedented in a non-Asian democracy?) due to their own nobility, or the utter inability of their opponents to create credible alternatives.

Because, and I'm just saying, even Texas elects Democrats as governor sometimes (or for that matter, Massachusetts elects Republicans).

I worry about a Liberal party, that in that many elections hasn't been able to create a winning party.

Mind you, in BC the NDP hasn't won an election when the centre-right was united since the 1970s. But on the other hand, the Alberta Conservatives have never managed the spectacular self-destruction that the BC Socreds performed post-Vander Zalm.

Trudeau immolating the Liberal brand here has a lot to do with it. But the adversarial relationship between the Liberals and Alberta goes back another 50 years before that, and the veneration of Trudeau is a continuing issue. The NEP still isn't talked about outside Alberta as anything but a far-sighted, magnanimous policy, when it's talked about at all.

And the Liberals out there hate us. They barely bother to disguise it. Insofar as the search for power defines their feelings, they're right to hate us, since we've been an obstacle for 80+ years. So culturally and psychologically, if you vote Liberal here, you're voting for your own destruction.

That has made the Conservatives an inappropriate source of psychic legitimacy when it comes to political action, which is to say that the "one-party state" jokesters have a point; no ambitious, talented politician or businessman needing juice would be likely to seek power within any other framework even if he were of Liberal sympathies privately (see Klein, Ralph). In some other province, Stelmach, Jim Dinning, and Ted Morton might all be leading different parties into a general election right now.


The NEP still isn't talked about outside Alberta as anything but a far-sighted, magnanimous policy, when it's talked about at all.

I would dispute at least the former, at least here in Atlantic Canada. It's kind of lumped in with "stupid things governments do." Although, of course, as a resident, I can sympathize with the whole "destruction" feeling.


That is possibly the most spirited defence of voting for the Stelmach government that I've read this campaign. (Actually, it may be the only spirited thing written about the campaign period.)

One minor geographical correction. Highvale is southwest, not southeast. If Mr. Taft was correctly quoted, he was likely referring to a proposed project that just happens to be in the Premier's constituency.

Cosh can't bring himself to vote for any other party than the Tories. That's what I call the fear of taking a chance. It is typical of a narrow-minded view of the world and is one of the reasons why the rest of the world considers Albertans backward and redneck.

Even a blind person can see that Stelmach is poison for the province, yet so many people, if we are to believe the polls, are still prepared to vote for him.

Cosh should be more daring and less of a girlie-man and take the plunge by giving another party (any other party) a try.

Thanks for stopping by and proving my point.

Colby, you're right to point out the anti-industry flavour of the Liberals. But Stelmach has caught up to them. Putting aside what the "proper" level for oilpatch royalties should be, I think we can all agree that threatening to rip up contracts with the oil sands, and generally demonizing "Big Oil" as immoral, is not the act of a free marketeer. Add to that his Suzuki-ish talk on the environment. The difference between Stelmach and Taft as premiers would be that Stelmach has the camouflage of the name "Conservative", while Taft is wearing bright red. So Stelmach could (and has) got away with taxing and spending that Taft would likely not even have tried to do. Add in Stelmach's inferiority complex about his diction and his education (his official website as premier says he almost went to law school -- who says that other than someone with a weird chip on their shoulder?) and his clear unease with ideas, and you've got a recipe for worse disasters under Stelmach than under Taft who is more venal but less stupid.

Why does Alberta deserve this strange karmic punishment?

Alberta deserves this strange karmic punishment because its oil industry backed Paul Martin's penpal for the Conservative leadership, and now a few scattered pundits are punishing Stelmach for it with goofball claims that he is "Suzuki-like" and attacks for a royalty hike that hasn't put the slightest dent in tarsands development or share prices. You're going to vote for Taft because he's the smarter economic manager? Really? The guy who's been going around the province selling rent controls as the solution to a housing shortage? That guy?

And you're dumping shit on Stelmach for the law school thing? Most voters have heard that he couldn't attend because his brother died and he had to go home to work the farm because the family wasn't very well off. Speaking a someone who's hit Stelmach with plenty of cheap shots, is this one that you really want to take?

I'm not calling Stelmach' attacks on the oil patch or the sanctity of contracts Suzuki-like. Those are Chavez-like, or at least Danny Williams-like. It takes a very special kind of idiot to import the rhetoric of attacking "foreign devils", when 40% of our citizenry and economy is made up of those "foreign" devils.

His Suzuki-like comments are about the environment in general. Have you heard Stelmach freestyle on the environment? I caught his rambling, foggy, child-like interview on Dave Rutherford's show just after the new year. Just as extreme as Suzuki, but far less coherent.

As to smart economic management, it really couldn't get much worse than Stelmach. Compare his track record over the past year with, say, the Liberal economic platform in the last election. He spent more than they said they would.

My point about Stelmach and law school is to highlight his weird jealousy/inferiority complex, and how he sees himself, and "rich", "fancy", "smooth-talking" oil men. Ralph Klein dropped out of school in Grade 8, yet was confident as a leader. He used his ordinariness to his advantage politically. Stelmach is so clearly self-conscious of his status and class (which isn't surprising, because he doesn't spend time thinking about policy or philosophy in a party that is nearly devoid of both). He attacked Jim Dinning in a classist vein, painting him (and the oil patch) as effete rich folks, unlike him, the strong man of the land. He's hypersensitive to criticism about his social station. And he manifests that in his vocabulary of "soak the rich" and "we want our fair share" that he's deployed against the oil patch -- as much as any NDP-er.

Pointing out his bizarre official resume only highlights that social hypersensitivity. Who would mention that he "almost" went to law school, besides someone so strangely focused on empty symbols of fanciness and class?

Albertans don't care if he went to law school or even high school. They just find it unsettling that he has deployed the language of envy and classism against our own domestic industry.

If I have a Wildrose Alliance candidate in my riding, I'll be voting for him; failing that, I'll vote for the most winnable alternative to the Tories, likely the Liberals. I think, however, that most life-long conservatives and Conseratives, and most anyone who works in the demon oil industry, will just stay home -- as 250,000 Tory voters did in the last election, measured aganist the one before.

I think Stelmach will scratch out a bare majority or, hopefully, a minority with half a dozen Wildrose Alliance MLAs getting official party status, and exceeding the NDP in seat count.

I predict Stelmach will be gone as leader within 12 months; if Ted Morton is elected leader, you'll see the fusion of the PCs with the Wildrose Alliance. If he isn't, you'll see the right wing torch passed from the Tories to the Wildrose Alliance, who will become at least the official opposition in 2012, if not the government. Here's hoping.

So what you're saying is you've followed this campaign and concluded that Ed Stelmach is the fanatical environmentalist among the Alberta party leaders. Was your recent head injury open or closed?

I've got a lot more wrong with me than that.

My eyes never thought they'd see oil and gas companies divesting from Alberta, to move to B.C. and Saskatchewan.

My ears never thought they'd hear a "Conservative" government denounced the industry that pays 40% of our tax dollars as "greedy".

But mainly it's my heart that's breaking, Colby.

Gord Tulk:


I'm pretty sure that your philosophy is most in line with the policies of the Wild Rose Alliance. so why not vote/endorse them?

Sure, they won't be the party woth the most seats but in a minoroty gov't they could very likely hold the balance of power.

This would result in two very beneficial things:

1. The gov't's actions would move in a rightward direction.

2. Mr. Ed would be exiled to a beach in Barbados and the PC or WRA would begin the job of filling the centre-right void that has existed since the mid-point of the Klein years.

They don't have a candidate in my riding and there's zero chance of a minority government. But I'll certainly consider them if they ever cut their ties with the Citizen's Centre for Freedom, Democracy, and Promising People Paycheques That Never Show Up.

Gord Tulk:

Ezra is bang-on by the way. Mr. Ed's fuddled farmer environmentalism is just as dangerous in its on way as Mr. fruitfly's.

He's like a lot of farmers bitching about the damage the O & G guys cause while they let their cattle graze right down and into the creek. And let's not talk about the once-a-year ditch they dig with front-end loader to bury whatever rubbish is kicking around.

Gord Tulk:

Colby, think again about the chances of a miinority.

If memory serves there are 11 seats where the margin of victory in the last election for the PCs was less than 800. 401 votes change and we are halfway to a minority. Couple that with the even greater unrest in the PC ranks and thus the even lower turnout on they will get while all of the opposition parties will have strong turnouts.

And as someone who travels a lot into Calgary and points south I can attest to the surge that the WRA is experiencing - whether it translates into seats for them is hard to say, but those that don't go WRA will very likely go LP.

Razor-thin majority or minority, either way Mr. Ed will be given his walking papers.

And don't discount the possiblity of one or two PCs crossing the floor to the WRA (Ted Morton)if it will result in the WRA having the balance of power. (you heard it here first)

Gord Tulk:

Colby, you really shouldn't hold grudges so long - it's bad for your health. And I'm sure there are lots of groups that the PCs are in bed with that you disapprove of too.

Bill Parkinson:

Stelmach brought up the NEP boogeyman during the campaign and it went nowhere.

I'd be willing to bet that 90% of Albertans wouldn't be able to tell you what the NEP entailed. It's just thrown out there as a blunt cudgel by the sad-sack PC campaign - like "holocaust" or "McCarthyism". All it proves is that Stelmach doesn't have a clue about what's going on in the province NOW.

So let's see what Stelmach accomplished this campaign: he was caught out lying about climate change job losses; he was caught out lying by claiming the PC party had nothing to do with appointing Tory-connected returning officers; and he couldn't be bothered to campaign outside of his preferred bubble of seniors' residences or PC riding campaign headquarters.

And Colby endorses him because he supposedly "likes the place"? If he liked it so much, he should get out of his bubble and meet some real voters. Whatever Taft's weaknesses, at least he put himself out there. Seems to me that's a good indication that he "likes the place."

One final note. I notice Stelmach didn't release his platform costing until two hours before the leaders' debate, assuring that he wouldn't get the grilling he deserved. Even then, it only costed 28 of 70 promises. And even more galling, he didn't indicate where the money would come from. Doesn't exactly indicate the guy's got a lot of respect for Albertans.

Taft released his platform costing the next day, had solid costs associated with all the major promises, and indicated precisely where the funds would come from. By far the most conservative-oriented fiscal plan. Plus he stood and answered questions about it, which Stelmach never did.

Colby, your many fans, like me, rely on you to show National Post readers that a muttering washed-up doofus like Lorne Gunter does not speak for Alberta. You're usually dead-on, but on Stelmach you're out to lunch.

If the guy liked Alberta and Albertans, he'd at least tell them the truth and answer the tough questions. And get out and meet some them outside of a Tory campaign HQ.


"Colby, you really shouldn't hold grudges so long - it's bad for your health."

Gord, if you're so supportive of those who, realistically, steal from others, you should consider shifting your vote to the Libs or the NDP.

Jason Hickman:

Colby, assuming that Hinman gets 1 of the 2 WA seats you've predicted, who gets the other one? Byfield, or that guy who almost took Dunvegan-Central Peace last time, or someone else?

The guy in Dunvegan was awful close, I imagine he'll take it.

George Skinner:

Great - another Alberta-based right wing breakaway party to fracture the right of centre vote. Have conservatives not learned anything from the Reform-PC schism of the 1990s? Is it more important to obtain ideological purity than to wield power and have a change of actually shaping policy? Stelmach may be unimpressive as premier, but I wouldn't bet on a party led by Ted Morton being any more attractive to the Jim Dinning faction of the PCs either. I've been living in BC since 2000, and I suspect the real problem is that Albertans haven't endured the misery of living under an incompetent left wing government like BC had prior to 1991. I hope the petulance exhibited by commenters here doesn't curse you with that...

George Skinner:

Whoops - make that 2001, not 1991. Of course, from what I've heard the end-stage Socreds in BC were no treat prior to 1991, either...

I've met Link and been in communication with him over the course of the campaign. Although I hope he wins, I'd rather have, say, Jane Morgan or Bob Babcock win in Calgary (or, best of all, John Baloun, our top candidate in Edmonton) if given a choice for another one simply because I think leaders of conservative parties need to be avuncular and Link, for all his talents, isn't really like that. If Link was a sitting MLA he'd surely have the inside track on becoming leader.



I agree with your assessment of the upcoming provincial election. Like you, I am casting a vote for the local representative of the PCs, as I believe he is the stronger candidate. However, I do not believe that Stelmach will last as leader of the party. In Alberta, to go from 72 seats to 55 or less seats in 8 years is an incredible show of the lack of confidence in the Premier. That being said, a glance at the opposition parties is a quick assurance of a Conservative majority government for another 4 years. Kevin Taft should have stepped down after last election (see Ralph Klein's approval rating and the PCs still managed to take 62 seats...) and Brian Mason should consider as well (not that the NDP will ever stand a chance in Alberta, The Green party will take more votes than they will) and Hinman hasn't established himself as a decent alternative (yet... I expect him to step down in order for a new leader to take the reins should his party not fair well, or a star candidate steps in (Morton?)). After the election, look for the political jockeying within the PC's for a new leader. Some compare Stelmach with Strom (see www.edstelmach.ca) but I see him as a Getty, only with a shorter term.

George Skinner:

re "have a chance of actually shaping policy", have you gone to a P"C" policy convention lately? Don't bother. Whatever you vote on can and will be completely ignored. Join the P"C" party and see how far you get.

I have no problem with Hinman. Door-knocking here I've found that Hinman has won has votes. I also think he's great personally, given the way he works like a dog and actively seeks advice. He knows his limitations. We can't realistically expect some sort of Mark Steyn sharpie to jump in and take the reins at this stage of development.

Brian Dell
WRA candidate for Edmonton - Beverly Clareview

Man, remind me to endorse you somewhere or other if you run again. I never got around to that. I urge Beverly-Clareview readers to run out and vote for Brian Dell, an outstandingly educated man with a strong belief in fiscal rectitude and evidence-based social policy. He is ridiculously overqualified to be a member of our legislature.



Unfortunately for your party, it is still in its first stages of post-merger campaigning. A lot of people know relatively little about the party or Hinman and I think it may show in this election. The best thing that could happen would be for the WRA to gain a few seats (hopefully more than the NDP), have a star candidate step forward and have Hinman step down as leader (even if he does "work like a dog," they could use the publicity) and make a run for it next election. That being said, if Stelmach is forced out as leader and replaced by the right candidate, (don't ask me who, its still unknown at this point...) the WRA doesn't stand a chance.

I didn't think I could top U of A mascot Guba's endorsement of me, but CC's just might! ;)

re "evidence based", available evidence indicates to me that the possession of marijuana for personal use should be decriminalized. Fines will nonetheless be issued if users don't attend a screening of "Thank You for Smoking"! ;)

Ty, I think the policies are ultimately more of an issue than the leader. Last year Alberta's economy grew 4.5%, which is definitely a boom in a developed country. But government spending soared 17%. This while the value of our sovereign endowment fund actually dropped. It doesn't matter if Ted Morton or Jim Dinning is Premier: keep bringing in budgets like that and there has to be an alternative. See my post http://briandell.blogspot.com/2008/03/unlucky-man-with-edmonton-journal.html concerning "crowding out".



While I agree that it is more than just the leader which should be taken into consideration, I do not believe that this is shared in the general population. Alberta has a strong history of following "populist" leaders (depending on the school of though you subscribe to, possibly because of the American influence on the province). Klein governed this province on little to no policies (he admitted as much) but was popular and thus, carried the party. I agree that the economy is a key issue and it wouldn't matter which premier were in power with the type of budgeting we have seen (personally, I hoped for Morton, I think the fiscal situation would in MUCH better shape...) However, I stand by the fact that your party would have much more legitimacy and would poll much better with a stronger leader. I have nothing against Hinman, he just isn't the charismatic leader that is needed in order to spur change fast. I say fast because eventually, something is going to change and I believe it will be with either the Conservatives or Wildrose Alliance leadership change.


What was that you were saying about a minority, Gord?

The walking papers must have gotten lost in the mail.

Okay, who had "Conservatives gain 11 seats" in the election pool?

Apparently Ed likes Alberta, and Alberta likes Ed right back.


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