April 30, 2010


Why did the chicken cancel the election?

Press release from the Government of Alberta:

Alberta continues to lead on Legislature reform

Province extends terms of existing MLAs

The Government of Alberta is extending the existing terms of Alberta’s Members of the Legislative Assembly until March 3, 2016 or an earlier time as provided under the Elections Act. The five-year terms were originally scheduled to expire in March 2013.

"The decision to extend the terms of our MLAs allows for and reaffirms the democratic will of Albertans who voted for them," said Premier Ed Stelmach. "Our province has shown leadership in holding elections and continually advocated that the will of the people must be reflected in the Legislature."

Ha ha. I'm just kidding, of course. No government would ever be so arrogant as to claim that canceling a planned election was actually an advancement of democracy... Wait, what?

Alberta continues to lead on Senate reform

Province extends terms of existing senators-in-waiting

The Government of Alberta is extending the existing terms of Alberta’s senators-in-waiting until December 2, 2013 or an earlier time as provided under the Senatorial Selection Act. The six-year terms were originally scheduled to expire this December.

"The decision to extend the terms of our senators-in-waiting allows for and reaffirms the democratic will of Albertans who voted for them," said Premier Ed Stelmach. "Our province has shown leadership in holding Senate elections and continually advocated that the will of the people must be reflected in the Senate."


So what brought this on? I think it's safe to say that Stelmach looked at the polls, saw that there was was a very real chance that his PC Senate candidates (assuming he could find any willing to run under that banner) would get trounced by the Wildrose, and decided that the damage he'd take from losing the Senate race would be greater that the fallout from killing the election altogether.

So the question is: Are we going to let him get away with it?

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December 04, 2007


Could I be any more of a douche?

Here's a phrase I bet you didn't expect: "Craig Chandler says he plans to sue" the PCs for rejecting his candidacy.

Maybe he'll get support from Jim Hawkes...


August 23, 2007


Dogs know what to do with (media reporting on) polls: Alberta edition

There's been some media coverage of a recent poll by Cameron Strategy (anyone heard of these guys before?) which has the Stelmach-led PCs falling to 32% support, down from 54% seven months ago. According to Daveberta, the full results (with January number in parenthesis) are:

PC – 32% (54%)
Liberal – 16% (16%)
NDP – 11% (9%)
Alliance – 5% (3%)
Unsure/Won’t vote – 36% (18%)

Sound really bad for Stelmach... but wait a minute, this looks strangely familiar. Why, it's one of my favourite poll-torquing techniques: leaving in the undecideds, so as to drag down the apparent support for the party you're gunning for!

Here's the real support levels, for both August and January:

PC - 50% (66%)
Liberal - 25% (20%)
NDP - 17% (11%)
Alliance - 8% (4%)

So there's still a significant drop, but nowhere near as bad as it's being made out to be. In fact, Stelmach is slightly above what Klein got in the last election.

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June 12, 2007


C'mon, ban smoking. All the cool provinces are doing it!

So it seems the Alberta PCs, led by the Minister of Statism, have decided to ban smoking on certain types of private property. They're also going to ban tobacco displays in retail stores, ostensibly to keep kids from starting to smoke. (Raise your hand if you or someone you know started smoking simply from seeing pictures in a store. Anyone? Anyone?)

Hancock also reveals some blatant scientific ignorance with the statement "no amount of smoke is safe". No matter how deadly a substance is, there's always a level below which it has no effect.

Speaking as a life-long non-smoker, this disgusts me. If you don't like restaurants and bars with smoky air, then just don't go there. Patronize those establishments which are (voluntarily) smoke-free, and you'll encourage other businesses to (voluntarily) do the same. It's incredibly arrogant to go around demanding that the government force other people to conform to your preferred ambiance.

I'm especially disappointed by how many conservatives sign on for stuff like this. For example, Diane Colley-Urquhart is supposed to be the leading right-winger on Calgary's city council, yet she not only supported, but actually spearheaded the move to push Calgary's smoking ban up by a year.

(Update: I forgot to mention how the Calgary Sun, another allegedly conservative publication, rejoiced at the news and claimed that this meant the PCs were finally showing some "backbone". Given that the anti-smoking lobby is at least ten times more powerful than the pro-smoking one, I'd say that it shows a complete lack thereof.)

Actions like this make me hope that the Alberta PCs end up losing today's by-election in Calgary-Elbow. If the "Conservatives" are just as statist as the Liberals, what's the point?

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December 04, 2006


Done like Dinning, part 2

So what does this result mean for the two losing contenders?

The way I see it, there are four possibilties as to what Jim Dinning will do:
  1. Run for office in the next election, and serve as a loyal and productive member of Ed Stelmach's cabinet. (C'mon, stop laughing. Let me finish.)
  2. Join the Liberal Party (provincial or federal).
  3. Use whatever's left of his support in the PC party to undermine Stelmach's leadership and try to force him out ASAP, so Jim can take another shot at it.
  4. Go back to the corporate world, never to be heard from again.

Number one is isn't very likely for two main reasons. For starters, this is Jim Dinning we're talking about. I think it's pretty obvious to all but his most die-hard supporters that Jim was in the race simply because he wanted to sit in the big chair, period. Secondly, even if Jim was willing to be just another member of the team, his history as Ralph Klein's finance minister and second-in-command would make this very difficult. Any cabinet job other than Finance would be an insulting demotion, and if he did get Finance again, everything he did would be (unflatteringly) compared with how he handled it in the 90's.

Options two is possible, but not for a few years at least. Option three is somewhat likely, and could be attempted whether or not Dinning runs for a seat in the Legislature.

Still, I think that number four is our best bet. Dinning's brand has just been too badly damaged by this loss. Not to push my favourite comparison again, but Paul Martin is considered a political loser today because he won a single minority government and then lost the follow-up election, instead of getting the massive 200 seat landslide he was expected to. Can you imagine how much more of a loser he'd be if he had ended up losing the 2003 leadership race to Sheila Copps? Well, that's essentially what Dinning did.

What about Ted Morton? His situation is quite different. Unlike Dinning, he's in the Alberta Conservatives because he has policy ideas that he wants to see implemented. This means that he will most likely be happy to serve in a Stelmach cabinet in a position where he can make a difference, and Ed would be wise to give Ted a prominent role in shaping the direction of his government. This is not just because it's good political manners to give your leadership rivals prominent placement, but because it's the best way to ensure a Stelmach victory in the next general election (more on that in a future post).

As a side note, I suspect that had Dinning won, he would have adopted the Paul Martin scorched-earch tactic towards his rival. Not only would he have left Morton out of Cabinet, he would have done everything possible to marginalize him within the party, up to and including sending in his minions to oust Morton at his next nomination meeting in Foothills-Rocky View.

PS- I apologize to Ed Stelmach if I inadvertently compared him to Sheila Copps. :)

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December 03, 2006


Done like Dinning

Congratulations, Premier Stelmach.

With Jim Dinning and Ed Stelmach virtually tied after the first count, it came down to the second choices of Ted Morton's supporters. It wasn't much of a contest. Over 60% of them picked Stelmach, with a paltry 10% going to Dinning. (Aren't you glad you spent the last week calling those voters a bunch of extremists, Jim?)

Ed finished with almost 78,000 votes and 58% of the final total.

So the best man didn't win... but neither did the worst man. Overall, I'm feeling surprisingly at peace with this result. I'll have some thoughts on what this means for the contenters and our province soon. For now, I'll leave you with the two best summaries of the results that I heard this evening:
"Better Ed than Red."

"Ted or Ed, it's the same expression on Rod Love's face."

Update: Listen to Jim's new theme song

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December 01, 2006


Who disrupts my coronation?

Jim Dinning isn't very happy about the threat to his quest for the Tory crown:
"It's been hijacked by issues."
Remind you of anyone?

To be fair, he goes on to say that these are "no doubt important issues, but not issues Albertans think about when they wake up every morning" and offers us "a buffet of the real issues." It's nice of you to decide for us what the "real issues" are, Jim.

I'm sorry if I sound overly snarky (and I'm even more sorry for causing you to read a Rick Bell column), but Dinning's patronizing attitude has really grated on me throughout this campaign. A little over a year ago, I asked him how he would deal with a government in Ottawa that was hostile to Alberta (not exactly a hypothetical question at the time). He responded that he wouldn't tell me, because "Vince Lombardi never revealed his playbook."

Wouldn't democracy be so much better if all politicians refused to release any platforms whatsoever, and we could just vote for them based on who had the fanciest web sites and nastiest attack ads?

It seems that Dinning has just received an endorsement of sorts from Anne McLellan. This shouldn't be a surprise; she probably sees Jim Dinning as the next best thing, what with his multitude of similarities to Mr. Dithers himself, as noted by the Globe and Mail:
Mr. Dinning, the former provincial treasurer who oversaw many of the cuts that defined the early years of the Klein government, has been widely described as Alberta's Paul Martin.
(Of course, they probably meant it as a compliment...)

You can sense the desperation in the Dinning camp this week, as they launch attacks on Ted Morton which are almost identical in style and content to the ones Martin ran against Stephen Harper. If that kind of scaremongering didn't work for the Liberals in the last federal election, what makes the Dinning campaign think it will work in a conservative leadership race in Alberta?

This is bad comedy.

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November 25, 2006


Live leadership results

Dinning 29,470 (30.2%)
Morton 25,614 (26.2%)
Stelmach 14,967 (15.3%)
Oberg 11,638 (11.9%)
Hancock 7,595 (7.8%)
Norris 6,789 (6.9%)
Doerksen 873 (0.9%)
McPherson 744 (0.8%)
Total: 97,690

Dinning 24,688
Morton 22,796
Stelmach 13,948
Oberg 10,479
Hancock 6,970
Norris 5,960
Doerksen 816
McPherson 638
Total: 86,295

Dinning 20,837
Morton 18,897
Stelmach 11,523
Oberg 8,646
Hancock 6,387
Norris 5,324
Doerksen 764
McPherson 558

Dinning 13,659
Morton 10,781
Stelmach 9,241
Oberg 5,265
Norris 3,885
Hancock 3,595
Doerksen 579
McPherson 366

Dinning 10,281
Morton 8,364
Stelmach 5,747
Oberg 4,227
Norris 2,612
Hancock 2,269
Doerkson 526
McPherson 264

Dinning 5,545
Morton 4,406
Stelmach 3,193
Oberg 2,801
Norris 1,418
Hancock 1,324
Doerksen 144
McPherson 143

Dinning 2,724
Morton 2,573
Stelmach 1,689
Oberg 1,465
Norris 705
Hancock 496
Doerksen 97
McPherson 72

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November 03, 2006


The least worthless poll so far

If you've been following the Alberta Conservative leadership race, you probably know that the publicly-released polls consistently show Jim Dinning in the lead, with Lyle Oberg a fairly close second, and everyone else well behind.

Sounds like a two-way race, right? Wrong. Even a casual examination of the polling methodology reveals that they are simply asking Alberta residents in general who they like best, when the race will be decided entirely by the small fraction of Albertans who bother to buy a five dollar party membership in order to vote.

Polls like the one above essentially measure nothing but name recognition. Candidates like Dinning (who has been campaigning for the Premier's chair for close to a decade) and Oberg (who gets himself lots of free media via the Garth Turner method) do well in them, simply because the general public has actually heard their names.

A good example of how this method fails is the current federal Liberal leadership race (which happens to end on the same day as the Alberta PC one). Shortly before the delegate selection meetings, a similar poll showed Ken Dryden in the lead with 19% of the vote, Michael Ignatieff a distant third with 10%, and Gerard Kennedy waaay behind with 4%. Dryden, of course, was a famous NHL goalie, while Ignatieff was a university prof who has been out of the country for most of the last 30 years and Kennedy was an Ontario cabinet minister with little exposure outside of that province. However, when the ballots were counted, Dryden got less than 5% of party members' support, while Ignatieff received 30% and Kennedy finished third with 17%.

The Next Alberta Premier blog has an excellent analysis of what's wrong with these polls and the various factors which will make the actual results quite different.

So, what would be a good poll? So far, there's been only one poll that's even remotely worth considering. It was conducted by the Progressive Group for Independent Business, and was restricted to only those respondents who were PC Party members, and thus actually eligible to vote. The results were as follows:
Lyle Oberg: 17.2%
Ted Morton: 17.2%
Jim Dinning: 16.0%
Mark Norris: 8.1%
Dave Hancock: 7.5%
Ed Stelmach: 3.0%
Victor Doerksen: 1.3%
Gary McPherson: 0.7%
Alana Delong: 0.2%
Undecided: 16.1%
Wouldn't Say: 12.7%
Of course, this poll still has significant problems. For starters, it did not include any respondents from northern Alberta. More importantly, a leadership race means thousands upon thousands of membership cards will be sold, and so all the existing members at the beginning of the race will only be a minority of the total by the time it ends. As the media is starting to acknowledge, the race will be won by the campaign that sells the most memberships and gets them out to vote.

Nonetheless, by limiting their poll to those Albertans who are actually party members, the PGIB eliminated the single biggest problem with leadership race polling. This earns their poll the honour of being... The Least Worthless Poll So Far (tm).

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October 05, 2006


Debate Club

Random thoughts from last night's Alberta Conservative leadership debate:

Meaningless metaphor
Ted Morton was seated on the far right, while Jim Dinning was seated on the far left.

Meaningless (but still funny) gaffe
Dave Hancock says we need to "reduce our literacy levels."

Life of the Party
Gary McPherson is a rather humourous and engaging speaker.

All things to all people
Dinning says he's the best guy to win back both Liberal voters and Alliance voters.

Help the poor socialites
Most of the candidates seemed to think art subsidies are necessary, because otherwise the Eastern media would look down their noses at us uncultured hicks. Morton was the only exception, saying something to the effect of "when goverment subsidizes art, it ultimately hurts our arts scene, because the artists spend their time sucking up to the government instead of working on their art." He then indicated that he would increase the tax write-off for donations to art groups.

Dithers, meet Panders
On the flip side, Dinning immediately chimed in with this statement: "The first role of government is to be a champion of the arts." Well, at least now we know what his number one priority will be...

Jim on science and religion
Dinning says that Alberta's rich resources and environment are something that "God blessed us with, uh... [stammers] a million years ago."

Overheard near the brochure tables
"My friend had a Dinning t-shirt when she came in, but after the debate she took it off, and now I think she wants a Morton one."

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