Monday, November 24, 2014

Quite possibly the most significant bi-election in Alberta history and nobody is even aware it's going on............

    The Edmonton Public School Board held a bi-election that is a first in Alberta. This publically elected board is taking constituent concerns to heart and held a bi-election  to elect a student to an equal seat at the board table.
In an era where political leaders do everything in their power to limit their transparency to the public, this board has taken the bold step of providing an equal say in board affairs to their greatest constituency: Students.
Rather than the traditional "your elders know best" approach to leadership, the EPSB passed a motion to allow students in high school to elect one of their own to sit at the board table and have the title; Trustee.
Such was the interest among Edmonton  high school students that 15 young people put their names forward vying for the chance to be the Trustee. This, for a position that adults often use as a gateway to greater political aspirations (Janice Sarich,  Bev Esslinger, Theresa Woopah, Danielle Smith, Kyle Fawcett, Maureen Kubernik) and are often elected or acclaimed in very quiet races as part of virtually silent municipal elections.
Why there isn't more noise about a student becoming a trustee is a mystery to me. If it were not a slow news day it might get some coverage, but I understand that   the possibility of Jim Prentice raising taxes or Ian Donovan and Kerri Towle not being able to tell right from right, takes precedence over an item like this.
I enjoy the potential implications:  the EPSB trustees have agreed, as a group, to water down their influence by allowing one more member on their board and that member will actually be someone directly impacted by every decision being made.
It's as imaginative as if the City of Edmonton appointing a homeless person to the homelessness commission, instead of just people who live in St. Albert, or the provincial government inviting the Pembina Institute  participate in environmental hearings without the Pembina Institute having to go to court.
It is a ground breaking step in transparency and  as moral and good as it is, it will at best considered a novelty, both in action and meaning by the majority of people and senior levels of government.
This decision by the EPSB is not the sort of thing we often get from our elected leaders, we get too many platitudes, prepared talking points, meaningless puff ball questions or other legislative boondoggles to  ever really see anything new or brave.
School board trustees, particularly since they aren't funders of the general social good, seldom get much recognition and are almost never introduced at fundraiser breakfasts yet somehow, despite this lack of attention and ego massage so common to City councillors or MLA's they managed to make a genuinely brilliant move that deserves far more accolades than a photo  of an MLA giving a giant cardboard cheque to a worthy cause.

There is a big difference between doing things the right way  and doing the right things: this is the best example I have seen in some time of a group of elected officials doing the right thing.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

It's not over until the female with the gland issue sings...........

I did not pay much attention to the buy-elections, especially this one since it fell so close on the heels of the  NDP leadership race. I was just plain exhausted.
 Bottom line: The big blue machine has proven, again, if nothing else, it is a formidable  opponent and is clearly  dedicated to holding onto power.  
In politics; as long as you win:  Actually in politics, WINNING is all there is.  
Prentice knows this, Mandell knows this, the other candidates know this, as should the Wild Rose, who for some  inexplicable reason chose to ignore it.
Finishing third behind the NDP in Edmonton Whitemud is  interesting and somewhat humiliating,  losing Calgary West by 315 votes is a less bitter pill to swallow:  It was  a close race, they had a good candidate but finished 315 votes short of bragging rights.   They scored a moral victory and sent the PC's a message that almost enough people didn't vote for them, and they better watch out because if the right 316 move or die between now and the next general election, this seat will be in play.
There will be some  soul searching about Willy MacBeath and Vitor  Marciano,  the Wildrose dynamic duo responsible for the  hyper-partisan campaign strategy that failed to deliver anything except abject failure.

The Alberta party,  in Calgary Elbow showed what happens when you hire a modern strategist with a penchant for social media to run your campaign: They  lost by 795 votes, but the social media spin was terrific. They lost but they didn't have anything to  lose.
The Green Party  were able to convince a 356 people to waste their votes and 23 people voted for an independent, presumably his immediate family.
While the PC's held the seats, every party except the Wildrose has something to feel good about.
Mayor, oops I mean Minister, Mandell called his victory "kosher" and even though he left about 20% on the table compared to what Hancock used to poll;  he was pleased, with the result, and just to prove that he hasn't changed a bit he  got testy with the reporter who mentioned it.   

No, the real story here is how, yet again the Wildrose managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by relying on an outdated strategy managed by out of touch zealots:  The Willy and Vitor brain trust are really good at the negative, which in a general election is a proven strategy for them. (Oh wait, no it's not)

Sure the PC's played buy-election:  announcing, schools hospitals and road construction in the constituencies in question, but they have always done that and the Wildrose should have known it was coming:

I do not think the Wildrose played hard enough on this,  I'd have promoted the whole thing as a BUY-ELECTION and kept public tab of how much taxpayer money was being spent and or promised  by the candidates.

But I predict election losses are not quite the end of the story: I keep hearing rumours that more than one Wildrose MLA is in conversation with PC Whip George Vanderberg about crossing the floor the other way. 
Danielle desperately needs to contain her caucus more effectively than she did with Joe Anglin from Rocky Mountain House, where, ultimately, the brain trust  set him up to lose his nomination because he was going to imitate Sarah Palin and go rogue. 
Danielle's public declaration of getting at least 77% in the leadership review is going to be a controlled and somewhat contrived activity, especially if there are changes who aren't Willy and Vitor.

She will get 77%, question is of what?

Politics is a blood sport. Apparently it's not the names on the ballot who control affairs, it's the old boys in support hose who do, or at least think they do. Trouble is they are seldom held to account for screwing up.

The  Wildrose could very well cease to exist as  meaningful opposition after 2016. They keep showing the PC's that Albertans gave them "one last chance", but I doubt very much the Big Blue Machine is worried about the about the official opposition who managed to finish third in two of four buy-election.

It's like there are four dogs in this province, one that knows how to hunt and three who can't be bothered getting off the porch.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Damn it but I hate being corrected

A guy I respect a lot, who's Dad was a great boss, just told me that Randy Dawson did NOT in fact work for Premier Stelmach in the leadership race of 2006.

Indeed Randy worked for Jim Dinning.

I do not know which of my theories this reinforces, I suspect it might be the one about checking facts,   but is shows clearly that Randy did better in elections than in leadership races.

Jim Prentice and Randy Dawson. It's good to have "people".

Randy Dawson is a king maker, sort of.... If you count the Ed Stelmach leadership victory and my own part of the 2008 72 seat landslide. But if you are counting on Randy  to be able to make Jim Prentice the new king,  well I'd suggest you make certain you have a robust exit strategy from what will undoubtedly be a very interesting battle of cash verses commitment.

Rumours abound that Rick McIvor and Thomas Lukaszuk are kicking tires and raising the $50,000 entrance fee to the leadership race.  Personally, I think Rick is the more fiscally conservative  of the two, but I'd have to back Thomas in this one.  I've known him a long time.
It's an interesting thought; my old constituency,  Edmonton Calder will be probably be represented by the new leader of the NDP and Edmonton Castledowns, directly adjacent, possibly by the new Premier. This will  make the 137 avenue dividing line  the English Channel of Alberta politics. (Proving, yet again,  that it is still "All in Calder")

That would be a first;  polar opposite political ideologies separated by 200 feet of recycled rubber tire asphalt instead of razor wire and machine guns.  It's about time the old hood got some attention.

But there are other reasons to support a leadership race than amusing geography:

  • Provincial politics is the best job Thomas or Rick have ever had.
  • Provincial politics is the worse job Jim will ever have.  
  • Thomas and Rick make a good living,
  • Jim makes well over seven figures and has "people".  
  • Thomas and Rick, know how to grill hot dogs, build play grounds in foreign countries and cut giant cakes in the rain,
  • Jim has "people".  
  • Jim needs a strategy to connect to common Albertans,  
  • Thomas and Rick are common Albertans.

I understand the Prentice campaign is doing the usual MLA  threats and intimidation thing.  I'm told 40 MLAs have already signed on to Jim, most I suspect seeking safety and a seat after the next election. But 40 MLAs equals 40 votes, plus whatever some can deliver, Thomas and Rick on the other hand probably have no MLA support, but that is hardly an certain sign of weakness: ask Redford or Stelmach.

Progressive Conservative Albertans are not stupid. The rules are better this time so memberships matter and vote splitting does not. 
With Randy Dawson and his crew demanding 2,000 votes from each of the 40 MLA's you know only the ones who actually deliver will become Jim's "people", otherwise known as cabinet ministers.

That's really the point though: let the MLA's know that they must sell  to become one of Jim's "people".  Jim does not have the same problems as ordinary Albertans,  many, in his role with CIBC he arguably, contributes to.   He may have charisma,  his suits might cost more than my truck, but we've gone down this path of electing elitists before and it did not end well; for the elitist or for us.
If I were in opposition I'd be hoping for a coronation:  I'd want it to be Jim only contest with no other worthy contenders.  That thought alone should be worth a significant number of seats in rural Alberta.  Go for it Randy, make yourself a King.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

An interview.............Such an interview

An acquaintance called, said "I have a friend who really needs a job can you oblige?"  I said sure and proceeded to give up a lunch to interview a very interesting young woman who's life is kind of a, well, I guess, mess would suffice. I did not hire her because I think it is bad form to be asked for a payroll advance during the interview.  I kid you not.

It got me thinking about the scope and ease with which life messes can occur a how, all things considered I've managed, as have my kids, to avoid most of the pitfalls of  modern society, drug use, excessive personal debt and not having a place to call home.  The party in question suffers from all of these maladies and does so either because she continually opted for the easy way out, or more likely does not pay enough attention to her own well being.

I can hear the left wing, go crazy to suggest that just because someone smokes dope at 9:00 am, couch surfs and uses hotmail as a fixed address, that I should not give such a person a job and entrust them with a hundred thousand dollars worth of delivery truck.  After all, just because you go to an interview stoned doesn't make you a bad person does it?

I believe the cure for poverty is a job and that the self respect gained by earning a steady paycheque far out weights the effort required to earn it.  But not all would agree apparently.

You can hear it in the tone of voice,  blame chats;   now I am pretty sure that not all police or doctors are bad people but to hear this through a filter of three hours since getting high it's easy to understand why some people are functionally unemployable.

It's nice that the interviewee has a friend  willing to help steer her in the right direction but it's unfortunate that the young lady cannot see that the help being offered is not something she was entitled to, rather was a gift.

When I told the acquaintance about the interviewee being stoned and telling me some rather outrageous stories of recent adventures at Diamonds Gentleman's Club, the acquaintance was mildly shocked.

Shocked but evidently not surprised.

In a tight labour market there is a temptation to look the other way when it comes to things like behaviour, drug use or attitude, often we are just glad to have a bum in the seat despite the fact we often end up with bums in seats and no more.

I do my part to help those who need a hand up, but always draw the line at a hand out. I'm wiling to hire a labourer who can pass a drug test even if that person needs to be taught which end of the shovel goes in the ground. Hire character because you can teach skill.

But sadly the lesson seems to be lost on many people that it is better to HAVE character than BE one.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Asked if he’d lead the way, Young simply said: “That’s a good question.”

Of course what the world was looking for Steve was a good answer.
In Don Braids world, however, you hit a grand slam, bottom of the 9th,  down by three home run.
There is an old expression, in baseball, football, basketball and virtually every sport except golf that says "You play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back" well it applies in golf too, but only to the caddy.
The same hold true for politics. Party politics, by definition is not an individual game, it is a team game where the members, to use an obscure reference to cowboys,  "Ride for the brand". There is nothing to be gained by the sort of brinksmanship Steve Young, the MLA for Edmonton Riverview played. It will ultimately only serves to undermine the publics confidence in all politicians.
I do not care who Steve wants to drink beer with, I don't care if it's Raj Sherman, David Eggen,  Putin or whomever. But to be suckered into saying something stupid to Don Braid of the Calgary Herald about who you don't want to drink beer with is a fairly sizeable oversight. 
Especially when the person you don't want to have a beer with is someone I have had a beer with, and enjoyed it, Premier Allison Redford.
I make no bones when I am unhappy about some policy of her government with which I cannot agree, but in this case Steve you stepped over the line from addressing  behavior to addressing  personality, a surprising frailty for a former police officer; a role that by definition is more concerned with what people do than who they are.
Reporters like Don Braid, Paula Simons or Graham Thompson are, like the police,  expert at catching people off guard. In media school 101 or the first day of police academy, right after the hair cut, they teach you that just because a reporter asks a question does not mean you are obligated to answer.
The same interrogation technique of befriending is used by both the media and the cops to gain trust, insight and ultimately a conviction. And Steve you are guilty.
You might not be wrong, or even remotely incorrect, but  you are guilty  and you can thank some of our mutual friends for asking me to be nice.
If you want a lesson in how to separate yourself from your party and leave with your conscience intact,  have a chat with former Conservative MP Brent Rathgeber. 
He stood up and resigned over a principle. A principle that ultimately might not be any more important in the grand scheme of things that who you drink beer with, but Brent did it right  and resigned to sit as an independent member of parliament before publically voicing his displeasure with the regime in power. I give full credit to his junior hockey career for his understanding of team dynamics.
In caucus tomorrow I expect the MLA's will slap the table with glee in hopes of not being the one with the question that starts "Premier, why'd you blow 45 grand on a trip to Africa and why does your EA live in the Matrix Hotel?"
You will be alone because you are tainted. Tainted by that  stink that follows people who aren't satisfied with the pay rates of School Board Trustees of City councilors but who still want  their ability to vote without following party line.
Your team is your team, like it, hate it, quit it, but don't tear it down in public.