Alberta bound

I’ll be heading to Edmonton tomorrow for the Manning Centre’s Conference on Alberta’s Future where registrants will discuss and evaluate Alberta’s performance in the Canadian and global contexts.

The conference comes on the heels of the Stelmach government’s Throne Speech today and when renewed calls for increased opposition time in Question Period have been vocalized by both the NDP and Wildrose Alliance Parties. Leader of the latter party, Danielle Smith has confirmed her attendance at the conference so it will be interesting to hear her take on Alberta’s future now, especially now that she’s leading in the polls and may well have been Alberta’s next premier if an election were held today.

There will also be representatives from the government there to discuss their vision as well as members of the other opposition parties. Preston Manning wrote an article published in the National Post today suggesting that Alberta’s PC dynasty is on shaky ground. Alberta observers will remember that Manning was courted by many Alberta conservatives to replace Premier Klein. Yet, in the end, Ed Stelmach was selected.

Alberta, partly due to the economic downturn, finds itself in different financial shape as the province’s treasury faces deficits instead of surpluses. Still the economic engine of Canada thanks in large part to its still booming energy sector, Alberta’s future and potential political turnover is the sleeper story in Canadian politics.

If you’ll be in Edmonton this weekend, I hope that I’ll see you at the conference. If not, I’ll be doing my best to file video and blog reports with those that have shaped Alberta’s past and those shaping its future.

Danielle Smith Wildrose Alliance leadership bid is very likely

Danielle Smith is the former Alberta director of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and is a regular commentator on Canadian politics. She resigned her position at the CFIB because it suddenly presented a “conflict” for other opportunities, namely seeking the leadership of the Wildrose Alliance now that Paul Hinman has stepped down. I asked her about Alberta politics, refreshing conservatism and her very likely bid.

Liberals from Alberta jump shift

Yesterday, Stephane Dion abandoned the Green Shift as a central plank of his campaign while the Liberal war-room and other senior Liberal communication officials did their best to shift the story by denying the departure.

Today, as revealed by the Calgary Herald, we see that the Liberals in Alberta are splitting from the rest of the candidates by releasing their own platform called the “made-in-Alberta agenda”. This rogue platform which promises free tuition for first year undergrads and a national pharmacare strategy shows that the Liberal Party’s Alberta candidates aren’t waiting around for Stephane Dion to flip-flop on ideas that are important to them.

In an election, the candidates are the team and the leader is the captain. Now, the Alberta candidates are off playing their own game while captain Dion is madly erasing the team’s chalkboard and fails to come up with any new plays.

Can you imagine a Prime Minister Stephane Dion that can’t implement his own agenda because his Alberta caucus has gone rogue? What does this say about Dion’s leadership when his team is turning their backs on Dion’s plan for winning this election?

Click here to download the “Made-in-Alberta” agenda

Stephane Dion goes west

Dion says that the Liberal carbon tax is a way for Alberta to redeem its “damaged” reputation!

I don’t know what’s more amusing for communication blunders, this declaration by the Liberal leader or the time when he compared Alberta to a milk cow.

I also enjoyed this,

Although Dion’s personal reputation in Quebec has not fully recovered, the country is now restive and the threat of separation is low, the former university professor said.

“We have a united Canada, a Canada built on clarity and mutual respect. We did it with the courage, the determination, of a cowboy from Calgary,” Dion told Liberal party supporters yesterday.

I know he was being figurative, but one has to wonder if he could have been referencing Stephen Harper.

On this day in history…

…a woman named Deb Grey became the first elected Reform party MP. On March 13th, 1989 Grey was elected by the constituents of the federal riding of Beaver River in Northern Alberta.

Affectionately called the “Iron Snowbird” by constituents and supporters Grey won the 1989 by-election just months after finishing fourth place in the previous General Election. The riding was vacated due to the death of John Dahmer, a PC MP in the Mulroney government.

At the time, she was described as a better communicator than most politicians by Preston Manning, the leader of the new Reform Party which had only formed 16 months earlier. Her common sense communication style likely rooted from her profession as a school teacher, her job before being sent to Ottawa to represent Beaver River.

Her campaign reflected much of the populism for which the party became famous, including taking a letter from the residents of Beaver River to the Central Bank over inflation caused by overspending in Central Canada. Particularly memorable for people that worked on her campaign was the “cavalcade of cars” dressed up in Reform colours which assembled from all points in the riding, from neighbouring regions and indeed from all corners of Alberta to distribute literature throughout the riding to promote their candidate. Grey also took advantage of growing Western anger with Mulroney’s government and famously warned Mulroney “beware the Ides of March, because Beaver River has a surprise for you.” She was also able to gain support by attending the PC nomination battle and introducing herself between the ballots of that contentious meeting. Logically, some supporters of losing candidates saw a better choice in Grey.

After carrying the Reform banner to Ottawa, Grey served as deputy leader, interim Opposition leader (only female leader of the opposition in history). She also had the pleasure of having her coffee made and office plants watered by the current Prime Minister; Stephen Harper was her first legislative assistant.

Liberal meltdown

This week was the first week back after a break for Canada’s New Government. Climate change was expected to lead the agenda as it seems to be the sole issue on which the Liberals care to define themselves. Conservatives rose to power promising to clean up government after the most significant corruption scandal in Canadian history. The Liberals think that they’ll rise to power cleaning up… Carbon dioxide and water vapour? Canadians have perceived Harper delivering on the Federal Accountability Act while Canadians believe that neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals will deliver on climate change.

In fact, I believe that this underlines a key weakness in Liberal messaging. While polling has shown that the environment is a top priority for Canadians, they’re not about to throw out the government on the issue when they actually go to the polls. If heathcare — an issue which actually has a direct effect on the life and death of Canadians — can be taken off the ballot of the electorate by a couple of weeks of warm weather in Toronto, it would seem that there aren’t any pressing issues that are really on the minds of Canadians. “Environment? Sure that sounds like something I should care about”

Unless a hurricane hits Toronto killing scores of people, the electorate is not about to uproot a government to install the old guard led by a sponsorship-era cabinet minister with no real record on the only issue on which he has chosen to define himself.

That’s why this week’s messaging was so puzzling. At the beginning of this week, a protester braved the freezing temperatures of downtown Ottawa to stretch out to play the part of a sunbathing polar bear. One wonders if the protester only had the suit rented for that day.

Liberals were sporting green ribbons in the House this week,
presumably to show that they care about the environment. Since Dion’s election as Liberal leader, the Liberal website has also incorporated a splash of green. Apparently this is to make it known that our Liberal friends care about the environment so long as the vehicle for their environmentalism is the Kyoto protocol. According to the popular narrative these days, one does not believe in saving the environment if one does not believe in a global, bureaucratic, statist wealth transfer agreement. In fact, one also does not believe in the science of climate change if one does not also believe in such a one world collectivist approach to saving the Earth from certain doom (according to our latest amended models). In fact, while Michael Ignatieff was lecturing the government to meet global Kyoto targets, the green ribbon-clad Ignatieff had his own words thrown back at him when environment minister John Baird quoted Ignatieff questioning Kyoto by saying “nobody knows what Kyoto is or what it commits us to”.

Thursday afternoon, Mark Holland, part of the new Liberal rat pack, had a meltdown (actually he didn’t flinch) when he said on Charles Adlers’ show that a Liberal government would control oil sands development in Alberta. Sacrificing the Canadian economy just because green has become fashionable will have Canadians thinking twice about the Liberal party. (The Liberal Party of Canada is already dead to Albertans).

Earlier on Thursday, Dion had a poor question period performance as he bizarrely stated that Harper was “paralyzing the world” when it came to Kyoto. Somebody ought to proofread Dion’s notes before QP, but I imagine this would be a difficult talk as I hear that Dion is very top-down in his approach and has no time for criticism from his staff.

All in all, a bit of a bizarre week for the Liberals on their climate communications. We heard some whispers about an old Harper letter calling Kyoto a “socialist scheme”, but the Liberals didn’t seem to get any mileage on it.

Why would the Liberals spend this frigid week lecturing the Conservatives on the global warming file (one on which they themselves have a dismal record). Is there really nothing else to talk about? Did the Liberals really spend the week telling Canadians “We got nothing”?

BONUS BAD MESSAGING: Bill Graham demanded Conservative action on Guantanamo Bay, a bizarre request given that Graham was foreign affairs minister in the years after 9/11.

Also, Dion called Harper fat?