Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Congrats Eddie!! Thank-you Ted.

I think Ed will make a fine Premier. I'll never be disappointed with an honest, intelligent farm boy running the show - its so very Albertan. He's conservative and thoughtful - and as with most farmers he won't be pushed around (he's already talking tough on Ottawa).

I also want to admit that I underestimated the effect of the media on this election. With a few exceptions (Tom Olsen for one), the media coverage of this campagin was a joke and those who covered it should be ashamed of themselves. They promoted stereotypes, dumbed the debate down to a lowest common denominator - namely name calling and labelling. There was almost no in-depth discussion of the issues - especially the more complicated ones espoused by Ted Morton. He was simply labelled and vilified.

I hope (and early indications are that Ed is moving in this direction) that Ted is involved in cabinet and particularly in a senior portfolio (international and intergovernmental affairs is an obvious choice).

Ted won this election for Ed - make no bones about it. Dinning would have won on ballot 1 or would have been so close that the other candidates would have thrown their support behind the inevitable, had Ted not had such a strong showing. Further, many of those Eddie votes came from persons concerned with the Liberal-like tactics and policies of Mr. Dinning (something that was not discussed until Ted started throwing punches) . Lastly, it was Ted's supporters that overwhelmingly went to Eddie on the second preference to deliver the Premier's chair.

Congrats Ed, you won and will be a very solid and uniting leader. Congrats Ted, you saved this province from undercover liberal rule for at least another 8 years - and you did it while the media and the Dinning-machine threw all the hate and propoganda they could muster at you. For that, you should be proud and we, proud conservatives everywhere, will always be grateful to you for it!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Morton the Clear Winner of 2nd PC Leadership Debate

I know the media isn't allowed to state there was a clear winner, but man oh man there is no question that Ted Morton won the debate tonight; if you listened to QR77 post debate you’ll know that there was a general consensus on this for obvious reasons. Here were the key points as I saw them:

· Ted looked like a guy who has his foot on the accelerator and feels certain he’s going to win. His answers were unapologetic and strait to the point…I like this guy the more I see and hear him. Ed’s and Jim’s answers were vague with the exception of Ed’s pension plan idea (which is a good one)

· Those last 2 questions were unfair or untrue and Ted still handled them flawlessly. First off, I found out the deal with the question by Fletcher Kent who said Ted had stated that Stelmach would run the Party out of office if Ed became Premier. Turns out Ted did not say that at all. It was stated by Mike Nickel who endorsed Ted a couple of days ago. I guess Mr. Fletcher thinks that if he hears a supporter say something, that Ted must of said it. Now by that logic Ann McLellan just endorsed Jim Dinning at the Liberal leadership convention…so I guess that means…you get my point.

On the same sex marriage question, the woman reporter (I forget her name) is obviously out of touch with the views of 60% of Albertans that were against same sex marriage at least last time I saw polling on the subject about a year ago. Ted’s proposition doesn’t even purport to end same sex marriage. It just protects religious leaders who choose to speak out of belief, and teachers/marriage commissioners who refuse to perform or teach same sex marriage. Extreme, ummm, no. Ted hammered that one out of the park – Moderate social conservatives as well as the so called “religious right” were nodding their heads with Ted on that one

Tom Olsen’s post-deabte comment that Ted was feeling under the weather and was a bit cranky was silly. Tom was obviously trying to cover for his 2 colleagues given their last 2 biased and ill-researched questions. Ted was the most polite of the 3 tonight…even a bit more conciliatory than even Ed was. But, I do like a cranky leader from time to time. Makes me feel safer.

· Jim’s accusation about how Ted’s health plan would see seniors paying for health services with their credit cards was as slimy as a campground outhouse seat. It was intended to scare seniors into voting against Ted. It was a total mischaracterization of the health reforms being proposed, and shows more than ever, just how Paul Martin-like the Dinning campaign has become.

· Notice how Ted was doing all he could to compare himself, and rightfully so, to Stephen Harper and the federal Reform Conservative movement generally. Great strategy in this province. I see it paying big dividends on Saturday.

· Jim looked uncomfortable, especially when asked by Fletcher Kent concerning how he could run a big tent party when he derided the values of people like Ted whose views on social morals constitute an extremely large percentage of the population – especially within the PC Party. He didn’t answer the question and instead decided to go off on the firewall boogeyman. Its getting old Jim.

· Ed stayed on point (which was “I’m the choice if you don’t like either one of these guys”), but I’m just having trouble seeing this guy as Premier. He just doesn’t seem to represent any real substantial change – but a great guy nonetheless.

I’m more convinced than ever that Ted Morton is going to win this thing barring Eddie catching Jim on the 1st pref and then using Jim’s second prefs to catch Ted --- which I just can’t see happening.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Why Ted Morton will be Premier

A lot has transpired since the vote on Saturday, and what was once a Dinning coronation has now become a 3 man dogfight with Ted in front, followed likely by Dinning but Ed closing in. Steady Eddie has managed to grow his support through the endorsements and organizational mergers of the Norris, Hancock, and Oberg campaigns. Not to be outdone, Ted Morton has at least 12 Federal Conservative MP's coming home to throw their support and organizations behind the Morton train.

The danger to Ted is no longer Jim Dinning. That balloon is sinking fast. The danger for Ted is that Ed Stelmach may (and it’s a big may) catch Jim on the 1st preference of the second ballot making Dinning supporters potential kingmakers if Ted hasn’t put enough distance between him and the other 2. Although this scenario may seem possible to some (and indeed its more likely than Dinning winning this thing now), I'll tell you why at the end of the day it will be Premier Ted Morton on Saturday.

1. Morton’s growth potential

If you haven't figured it out, Ted has become the candidate of Federal Conservatives. He has more federal MPs supporting him than anyone else by far including 12 flying out from Ottawa this week. There is no doubt that the federal party is much more respected and liked in Alberta than the provincial Tories are. As Albertans increasingly see Ted Morton in that light (that of a leader in the image of Preston Manning and Stephen Harper), conservatives will flock to him.

Some in the media speculate that Ted may have peaked on Saturday; there is just no way this is true. The fact is that Ted merely scratched the surface of the voter base he is targeting. It’s a base mix of old Preston Manning Reformers, moderate social conservatives, Stephen Harper Federalists, Alberta Alliance members and other disenchanted former Conservatives, and provincial-rights advocates willing to give federalism another chance if Harper and Morton can make federalism work fairer. This group, in Alberta at least, is absolutely massive - 25,000 votes was only a spit in the bucket.

2. Prairie Populist Wildfire

What is happening is simple. While guys with Jim, for the most part, work for money and connections, and volunteers for Eddie are working because they believe in the good man he is, the army of volunteers working for Ted believe in the cause Ted promotes. Ted doesn't wow people by his appearance or his rhetoric. Like Preston Manning and Stephen Harper, his appeal comes from the principles he stands for, namely, a rebalancing of federalism, family-friendly policies, democratic reform, small government, low taxes, and personal responsibility with just the right amount of compassion. These principles motivate a large portion of the Alberta electorate, and that explains Ted's exponential growth in support.What this emotional connection to the “cause” creates is a campaign machine built without official organization. Its self-creating and self perpetuating; it builds on itself without any centralized guidance or financial support. The last time we saw it, Preston Manning’s Reform party swept Alberta and most of the West unseating the entire Federal Progressive Conservative establishment.

For example, I just talked to a fellow Calgary professional about the race. He said his Mom had just given him a call, along with the rest of her kids, to convince he and his wife to vote for Ted. And he planned to do it. Now multiply this experience by 5000 or so and you have the current situation. Moms are calling kids. Uncles calling nephews. Grandsons calling grandparents. Neighbours calling neighbours. It’s grassroots populism, and its almost impossible to keep up with if you are Dinning or Stelmach.

I found this tidbit on another blog. This guy is obviously an active volunteer at Morton HQ ( Here is what he noticed:

Start Quote

"I was at the Morton campaign headquarters this afternoon (Monday after the 1st vote). There was a small army of people there. Surely, the largest number of people I have seen there other than when they had special events. Volunteers at the tables were shoulder to shoulder, and if you got up to get a drink of water, you risked of losing your seat.
From my economics classes in university, I learned about diminishing returns. But these folks worked so well together: they proved Malthus wrong. The volunteers worked like a well-oiled machine. It was a sight to behold.
Just before I left, a group of guys hauled in 6 new tables. There is now room for twice the number of volunteers. It will make it more comfortable, perhaps. But there is something to be said about people working should to shoulder for what they believe. And that, we did.

One of the things that I did this afternoon was to help haul out a massive mail out. We put it in a van, and a few people took it to the post office. We found out later that they got there when the doors were just closing. “Sorry,” said the woman behind the door, “we’re closed.” But then she noticed the Morton stickers on the boxes. “Is that for Ted Morton?” she asked. And as soon as she heard the positive reply, she opened the door and said: “Come in. I’m supporting Morton!”
It’s bloody cold here in Calgary today. But you wouldn’t know it walking into the Morton campaign office. A big internal Chinook is propelling their sails."

End Quote

3. Dinning’s "Scary Card" will backfire in favour of Ted

Jim Dinning has completed his metamorphosis into Paul Martin. He has decided to portray Morton as a scary right winger hell bent on taking this province back to the dark ages.

Apparently Jim didn't watch the last federal election where his chum(p) Paul Martin tried that tactic on Stephen Harper (you know, the "Stephen Harper is conservative and conservatives have no place in our tolerant society" routine). Guess what, it became a joke and backfired on him --- and he went 0/28 in Alberta. Even the easterners didn't buy it! The Dinning brain trust has decided that this same strategy may work in Alberta....pause....because.....pause.....ummm.....any ideas anyone?.....anyone at all?

Its almost like Jim has come on board the Morton campaign team and has made it his mission to piss off all Albertans disillusioned with the current provincial-federal arrangement, all social conservatives, and anyone who believes in the same policies as Stephen Harper...meaning pretty much the entire Conservative base.

What Dinning should have done from the beginning was propose cutting edge ideas that would inspire voters to think of him as a man to champion the Conservative Alberta cause. Instead, they got a Seinfeld campaign based on political correctness and now fear mongering. Voters generally, especially Albertans, do not vote against someone, they vote because of some one. Paul, I mean, Jim just never seemed to figure this out.

Ted will gain from this blunder.

4. Stelmach’s Achilles Heel

Let me first say, that every Ted supporter should be voting for Ed on a second ballot. Dinning can’t touch this guy with regards to integrity and Conservatism generally, and Ed would probably run a reasonably effective government. However, despite Ed’s good points, he simply hasn’t proposed any real meaningful reforms. Some of his suggestions are solid but they are the ideas of a manager and cabinet minister (a tinker here, an improvement there, but nothing substantive).

So Ed has a problem. He has a host of people who believe in his integrity (and that will win votes and build his base), however, it is really he who has the growth potential problem. Aside from being the compromise candidate, what does Ed really stand for? What meaningful reforms and changes will he implement? If Ed doesn’t give us something to bite into, its hard for me to imagine him toppling Morton on Saturday.

The only chance he might have is if he somehow caught Dinning after 1st preferences are tallied, and then caught Ted with Jim’s second preferences. However, to make up 15,000 votes on Jim without any inspiring ideas is a lot to ask no matter how many endorsements Eddie secures. And even if he did catch Jim, he may be too far behind Ted to catch up fully. Dinning supporters will likely largely go to Ed, but any political analyst worth his salt will tell you that anything over 2/3 one-way migration on a second preference is overly optimistic to say the least

5. Senseless Dinning arguments

I’m sure there is more of this silliness to come, but when Jim says things like he did on Monday such as “Too many Canadians look at Alberta as greedy and mean-spirited because we don’t share enough of our wealth”, it seriously calls Jimbo’s judgment into question.

And his solution of “lets send even more cash to Ottawa to smooth things over?” Is he serious? First off, how could this statement possibly help his cause. Is Jim calling Albertans greedy or Canadians ungrateful? Is he saying he’s concerned with our image enough to send more money to Ottawa at the expense of our infrastructure and health care needs here? I just do not understand how this makes the average Albertan…Conservative Albertan…feel inclined to support the man.

Three words on Saturday night: Premier Ted Morton

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Titanic 2 - The Jim Dinning Story

Wow! I mean, what else is there to say? Jim Dinning spends 7 years and close to $5 million dollars on a leadership campaign the media had proclaimed he was a shoe-in to win...he gets endorsements from every left wing and Party entity and individual that he could ever want...and guess what...he's a whole 3800 votes ahead of a guy who spent 10 times less cash, spent about 5 less years campaigning, and who the media until about a week and a half ago described as some kind of scary religious freak from the far right. Once more, the media and the establishment of the PC Party have shown themselves to be almost totally out of touch with both the average Albertan, and the average Conservative Albertan. Well , they ain't out of touch anymore...Saturday solved that.

Like a "freight train" as Tom Olson and Graham Thompson described, Ted Morton has come to crash the leadership coronation of one Prince Dinning, and has turned this race on its head. Kudos also go to Ed Stelmach who I personally like very much, and who I also underestimated (lets face it, everyone underestimated the guy).

Despite the wakeup call, some in the media still don't quite "get it". Graham Thompson (likely the most out of touch of all Alberta Political Commentators), opines that this race is comparable to the race of 1993, where fearing a Betkowski victory, Klein's minions were able to rally Albertan's and win easily on the second ballot. Graham goes on to say that a possibly effective Dinning strategy would be to scare Albertans with the prospect of a Premier Ted Morton government and therefore rally the province into an "Anything-but-Morton" panicked stampede to the polls next week (see Liberal strategy of the “Prime Minister Harper boogeyman”).

Well Graham, you have the right idea - but you have it all backwards.

History is indeed repeating itself. The reason why Betkowski lost was indeed because Alberta Conservatives stampeded to the polls on week 2 to ensure a Klein victory. But that was because Betkowski was even further to the left than Dinning is. Albertans on the right flank panicked...not the left. And frankly, that is precisely what is happening again.

Jim Dinning will do better than Betkowski did because, although clearly a Ultra-Red Status Quo Tory, he is not quite as liberal as Nancy was (but close). However, the end result will be the same. The more people hear Ted and see Ted, the more Albertans like him and come to the realization that the guy is as extreme as the current Prime Minister...meaning he's not. On the contrary, the more Albertans hear and see Jim Dinning, the more he reminds Albertans of Paul Martin.

Telling Alberta Alliance supporters they are just grumpy Conservatives that should grow up reminds me of Paul Martins "you're un-Canadian if you don't agree with me" strategy.

Painting Ted Morton, a Catholic guy who attends church a few times a year, as a religious social extremist because he doesn't want people to be forced to perform gay-marriages and wants parents to choose whether their kids are taught homosexuality in schools -- is a strategy should we say likely somewhat ineffective for wooing the average run-of-the mill moderate social Conservative (which constitutes about 60% of Albertans and 70% of Conservatives in this province).

And promising to pave beautiful touchy-feely bridges to Ottawa during a time when Quebec is beginning its "We want more, We want more" routine, isn't exactly a winning strategy when placed beside the Morton "steal our stuff anymore and I'll kick your teeth in" attitude.

Over and Over again, Jim continues to grasp defeat out of the jaws of victory every time he does and doesn't open his mouth. And its not like Ted has run a flawless campaign. There are things, as with all campaigns, that could have been done far more effectively. Its that his campaign is Stephen Harper like, and Jim's is Paul Martin like...and what’s even worse for Jim...he's trying to win over Conservative Albertans with this, what his people term, "strategy".

Expect Dinning to drum up about 5-10 thousand more votes next week.
Expect Ted to drum up about double Jim's new support (the Reform Party referral machine is now in high gear - and its a monster).
Expect Ted to win after second preferences are tallied (53-47)

Premier Ted Morton. Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Excuse me while I go change my pants.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Queue the Alberta Seismic Political Shift

If you can't smell it in the air, blow your nose...Alberta is about to undergo what Preston Manning has said it would unavoidably soon undergo...a substantial political shift either within the Governing Tories or without it. It happened to the Liberals (yes Liberals did rule Alberta at one time...shudder). It happened to the United Farmers and So-Creds as well. And it almost certainly would have happened had not Ralph Klein won the nomination in the early nineties as he rescued the party from Peter Lougheed's sweetheart Liberal candidate, Don Getty.

Alas, Ralph's legacy is a two-edged sword. His government was so effective and so successful in its first 8 or so years, that it effectively quashed all meaningful opposition. The result was that the opposition decided in a typical Liberal defeatist attitude - "if you cant beat them, join them." Slowly but surely, this has drug the PC's so far left as to make them virtually indistinguishable from the BC Liberal Party and other middle-left provincial parties. Of course, the more Liberals, the more power-mongering, the more waste, the less of an emphasis on "old fashioned" things like values, low taxes, and family and child-friendly policies, etc. Not to anyone's surprise the Alliance has sprung up and with virtually no profile, attention or recognition, somehow grabbed 10% of the Conservative electorate. And make no bones about it, it will be 20 at least if Jim Dinning wins. And if that creates a minority government (Liberal or PC), there will be either a mad rush to the Alliance and some sanding of its rough edges, or a new party will spring up under another Conservative banner to make sure Liberals in this province remain in the wilderness.

So that brings us to today. The most recent poll by the Herald, polling party members as of early November (see link below) discloses what most educated political analysts and journalists suspected (kudos to Tom Olsen for being the Alberta journalist to notice this first in the MSM). Its a two-horse race between Dinning and Morton, with a battle for third between Norris, Stelmach and Oberg - with Oberg the most likely 3rd place guy.

Jim Dinning will not win on the first vote. In fact it wont even be close for him. His "insiders" are professing how some of their memberships didn't have phone numbers and thus were not polled; and that they had kept back thousands of memberships to hand out later so they didn’t have to share them with the party. This is code language for "Holy Crap, we're in trouble". The fact is that other campaigns don't mail out memberships to thousands of union members and random lists of employees working for Dinning supportive corporations. Hell, tactics like that may even result in net gains for guys like Norris, Morton, Oberg, etc. (I worked for a union at one time - wouldn’t vote for JD then, won't be doing it Saturday either - but I'd use that free membership to vote just the same).

The other seismic sensations I am feeling that lead me to believe a seminal shift is just days away is the "Anything But Dinning" campaign that is coalescing behind what is looking to be Ted Morton…and its not that Lyle, Eddie, or Mark aren’t capable of being this year’s version of a newly elected Ralph Klein, its just that Ted simply has the numbers, organization, and frankly the Klein-like edginess that Albertans like in a leader. If JD is unwilling to somehow stymie this trend - he doesn't stand a chance. What will he turn to, his Seinfeld platform?

Another weird thing. All of a sudden the media can't shut up about Morton. Its almost like make-up sex. They beat on each other for so long and now they're all over each other. Every day I see a new columnist endorsing Ted, and Ted joking playfully with journalist’s barbs. Its like some kind of understanding has been formed - the “you know what I’m about, and I know what you’re about so lets get along and work together” relationship that happened with Klein is similar to what is going on now. Good grief, even Tom Olsen seems to like him as much as big Jimbo - maybe he realizes he'll make a better quote than Jim would for the next 8 years.

Finally, the Quebec card. In an almost too-good-to-be-true break for Ted Morton, the Quebec nationhood question has been thrust onto the national political stage. And its not that recognizing some kind of societal nationhood for Quebec is a bad thing that pisses Albertans off. Its that it sows a seed of warning in the minds of Albertans that know all to well that if there are unity questions and negotiations to be played out nationally, the end result is more money and power going to Quebec from the pockets and rights of Albertans. And make no mistake about it, if this becomes a larger issue over the next week or so, I think it will be judged by Albertans en masse that Jim Dinning is not the guy to be leading the ship, and that that Ted Morton guy is.

I could obviously still be wrong on this but I suspect it will play out as follows. Expect Dinning to still be first on the first ballot with about 30% and Ted close behind at about 24% or so. Expect Lyle to be at 15%, Eddie barely behind Lyle and Norris at 10. Hancock will be lucky to get 5, and Victor and Gary will likely be below 2.

Then expect a massive sale of memberships and a very grassroots movement on the ground - and although Dinning has an edge in cash and organization - there is nothing that can withstand the prairie populism grassfires that are the hallmark of Alberta politics. Expect Ted Morton, despite some of his rougher edges (much like Klein’s rough edges - we just don’t trust polished, politically correct politicians in this province) to break out to a 40-35-25 lead on the second ballot and a 55-45 final count.

The smell is in the air. The province is about to renew itself for another 10 year run.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I'm Supportin Morton...then Oberg.

Well, it started out as a fight between 9 candidates. One soon left leaving 8. It wasn't too long before 5 candidates - Jim Dinning, Ted Morton, Lyle Oberg, Mark Norris, and Ed Stelmach showed themselves as the only 5 with any real chance of winning the leadership (but huge kudos to Dave and Victor - they should be applauded for their efforts and fire and are assets to the Conservative movement.)

Jim Dinning was next off my list. I have devoted most of this blog to attacking him because he's the most dangerous of the remaining 5 candidates. His policies are vague and directionless. His platitudes are self-righteous, and what little policy he has shared has been left leaning and weak. He doesn't see a need to implement meaningful health care reforms. He has shown no spine with regards to provincial rights. He sees tax cuts as "vote buying" schemes. Furthermore, as much as Rod Love and the outgoing establishment helped Alberta during their first 7 years in power, they have been harmful to the province for the last 7 years with their lack of vision and power centralizing policies and actions. Jim Dinning is their poster boy and great hope to a continued grasp on power. We need change in this province or we are going to squander opportunity that most countries and provinces could only dream of. Jim Dinning represents everything that’s wrong with the current Tory Government. The party needs renewal or it will fall.

Ed Stelmach and Mark Norris both brought depth and fantastic ideas to the campaign. I have particularly done a 180 on Norris. He showed great integrity by disclosing lists of his financial supporters, and his positive vision for this province is contagious. Steady Eddie is so likeable in demeanor and thoughtful in his policies that if he isn’t a high profile cabinet minister in the next Government – something is wrong. In the end, these two lost out basically on the fact I simply don’t feel they have the organization and support to defeat Jim Dinning. Also, they both are a little bit weak on areas such as tax cuts and provincial/federal relations. That said – they are incredible assets to this Party.

Lyle Oberg made some silly mistakes in this campaign – however, a few silly moves shouldn’t overshadow his truly thoughtful Conservative policies, his resume, and his willingness to stand up to the Feds and the establishment. This guy is a winner. He is also doctor - I trust him to implement the health reforms every rationale individual other than Dinning seems to understand we need. I would pick him as Health Minister and task him with designing and implementing the Health Reforms - He is the most qualified to do so. He goes on my second Dec 2 ballot as my second preference – and I hope all other true Conservatives supporting the other candidates do the same if their guy doesn’t’ make it into what I suspect will be the top 3.

That leaves us with Ted. Plain and simple, he’s the right guy at the right time for leader of the Alberta PC Party and for Alberta as a province. Alberta is squandering its wealth in an alarming way – his plan for the Heritage fund and budget accountability and caps is bang on what is needed in a province which is spending like drunken sailors without any plan beyond to do what will shut people up for 5 minutes.

His vision for healthcare is exactly what is needed – and is virtually identical to Lyle’s.

Ted is without doubt the most qualified to reform our education system. His wife is a former school teacher, and he a former professor. He wants to ensure a sustainable funding mechanism coupled with accountability for teachers, and more choice for parents regarding both where and what their children are taught.

He has all kinds of credibility when he talks about democratic reform. Why? Because he has fought for it for his entire political life through his tireless efforts supporting the Reform Party and its democratic ideals.

He appeals to academics, health professionals and students as much as he does to religious persons tired of being politically ostracized. The fact that he is willing to openly talk and converse with those who have strong faiths, allowing them to temper and influence but not dominate the agenda and his policies is a feat almost entirely unique to Ted (and possibly Lyle) in this race – and needed in a province such as Alberta. Most politicians usually choose to ignore that community entirely or allow them to dominate their policies completely. Ted has found the vaunted middle ground – honestly, name one “religious extremist policy” the guy has…there is none that I know of – unless making sure people can legally disagree with moral-based legislation is extremist.

He has made it his life’s mission to hold accountable an overactive Liberally-appointed judiciary.

He has spoken out on ridiculously flawed Federal policies such as equalization and its devastating effect on our economy and on the economies of other provinces – and he did it before it was cool or acceptable to talk about it. Even more amazing is that he has fought for these issues in a pro-Canadian, non-separatist way which has allowed alienated Albertans to find peace with loving their country while fighting against its flawed course. When he gets pushed, he punches back – and when the East comes calling – and you are truly living in Oz if you can’t see that coming post or even during Harper’s term - I want Ted Morton at the table protecting our provincial interest, resources, and rights.

Premier Ted Morton
Health Minister Lyle Oberg
Education Minister Mark Norris
Environmental Minister Ed Stelmach
Finance Minister Victor Doerksen (Dinning won’t run if he doesn’t win)
Post-Secondary Education Minister Dave Hancock

Now that’s a Tory Government I could get behind!!!

On November 25th – I’m supportin’ Morton – I hope Conservative Albertans will all do the same!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Morton - Oberg Way; Calgary Debate Analysis

I attended the Calgary debate for the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party in person tonight and got a first hand view of the candidates. If it wasn't clear to me before, it’s starkly clear now - Alberta Conservatives have a stark choice in this leadership election race.

It’s either the Ted Morton / Lyle Oberg way; or the Jim Dinning way.

First off, Jim Dinning did not come across well. Once again, he did nothing and said nothing all night. It was platitude after vague platitude. And when he ventured to share a firm opinion on something, it was like reading from the Liberal Red Book....spend, spend, spend...public health care, public health care...lets reach out with cash and love to the other provinces...etc, etc. I am now officially distressed over the prospect of this man running the province...the thought is starting to sicken me. The low point of the debate was while answering whether he would get rid of health premiums he said, and I paraphrase:

"I am not going to buy your vote by cutting health premiums". What does one say to a comment like that? UUUMMM - so you are a Conservative who believes tax cuts are akin to buying comforting! Gratefully, Ted and Lyle promised to cut the tax which of course hammers the middle class, while the rich have their companies pay the premiums and the poor have the government pay. Everyone understands this except for Dinning. Good grief, even Taft and Mason understand this. Very puzzling.

Now I don't want to ignore the other candidates (Eddy, Victor, Mark, and even ol' Dave were actually quite impressive and likeable); however there is little doubt that Oberg and Morton were the winners of the night - and although very similar in policy, they stood out for different reasons.

Ted Morton was strong all night. Frankly, he's been the only guy with enough balls to take a shot at Dinning (rather than comfy up to the guy in hopes of a cabinet position) - and that’s the sort of toughness we need in a leader. He belted Jim for his unwillingness to implement meaningful health care reform; he slammed him for being an elite establishment backroom boy; and he reminded viewers of Dinning's lack of commitment to provincial rights against federal incursion. He looked good, and frankly, his supporters were the loudest and largest in numbers -hell even Tom Olsen from the Herald was impressed with him at the end of the night. All in all, very solid night for Ted.

Lyle Oberg was no less impressive. His comparing of the current health system to that of Cuba and promise to implement needed European style health care reforms was very persuasive, as was his promise to introduce some private insurance and medicine into the system without going to a 2-tier system (meaning doctors could practice privately part time but would have to remain in the public system as well) - that’s solid stuff. He came across as a guy who would not be pushed around by Ottawa - and although Morton is probably stronger in this area given his history - Lyle showed he's Albertan first and foremost - in stark contrast to Dinning. Very impressive performance by Lyle. I think both he and Ted won a ton of second preference votes from each other this night.

Best line of the night, Dave Hancock speaking to his experience in cabinet, and I paraphrase, "If you haven't heard of me, it’s because I haven't screwed up"

This night was important to the campaign. Media pundits will likely draw it up as a Morton / Oberg tag team on Dinning, but really it was a night where Alberta Conservatives finally were able to see two clear choices placed before them...I sure hope voters steer it the Morton / Oberg way.