Saturday, February 09, 2008

Brand X

Rick Bell hits the nail on the head about our Brand X government and the party in charge.

a good assumption is many Albertans will simply cling to the Tory brand unless the actual Xs on the big day show something different. It's the brand. It has nothing to do with political philosophy. We have seen billions in boondoggles, an attitude of denial causing a building backlog you feel everyday you get out of bed. We've seen cutting and spending and behaviour that would be a firing offence elsewhere. We've smelled the stench of scandal and been served up arrogance as aggravating as anything Ottawa dishes out.

All we can hope for is that the stench from this dying corpse of a political regime disgusts the huge undecided vote in Alberta enough that it decides to NOT vote Tory.

The key to election-night victory could be the support of the large segment of undecided voters, said Lois Harder, who teaches political science at the University of Alberta. "The issue in a province with a long political dynasty and a healthy economy is whether people are going to be motivated to vote."

Thanks to Ed calling a winter election, lets hope it remains so damned cold that rural Tories decide to stay warm at home in front of their pot belly stoves.

That and let's hope the oil boys decide that the WildRoseAlliance is the place to park their votes splitting the right.

The Tory leader found a more welcoming crowd during coffee shop meet-and-greets in Wetaskiwin and Calmar. But when his bus pulled into Drayton Valley for a chat to about 100 townsfolk at the 55+ Recreation Centre, he faced some tough questions from oil and gas workers upset with his royalty plan.

Ken Cameron, a 52-year-old co-owner of an oil and gas services company, told Stelmach that industry workers have been crippled by the soaring Canadian dollar and Ottawa's decision to tax income trusts. But "the final nail in the coffin" has been Stelmach's new royalty framework.

"I think the premier and (Energy Minister) Mel Knight are totally out of touch with conventional oil and gas," said Cameron.

Stelmach has vowed to review his royalty plan to ensure there's no "unintended consequences" for smaller oil and gas companies.

The review had better produce some major changes or Stelmach's lost another vote, this one from Dave Humphreys, a 42-year-old vice-president of an oil and gas company who also pressed the Tory leader on the issue.

"I'm very worried about the economic impact on the community," Dave Humphreys, vice-president of an oil and gas firm, told Stelmach. "It's going to have a terrible rippling effect."

The rough receptions in Red Deer and Drayton Valley only add to what's already been a rocky start to Stelmach's first election campaign as premier, suggested Peter McCormick, political scientist at the University of Lethbridge.

"This is the part of the campaign that should be on auto pilot," McCormick said.

"This was well set up to be a triumphant campaign, but it just isn't working."

If the Tories remain in power, after Stelmach's vote buying campaign let us hope it is with a decimated majority, with a balance of power in the Leg made up of the opposition parties. Now that would be usual for any other province, but highly unusual for Alberta.

Then the Tories would have to act like a government rather than as a feudal dynasty including having to have debates in the legislature and actually bringing budgets and bills to be voted on rather than passed 'in council' as they have done for the past twenty years.

Considering that this is the Party that had popularity ratings of 80-90% in past elections this poll does not bode well, despite the spin put on it by Dave Rutherford's right wing media mouthpiece;

CALGARY/AM770CHQR - The first poll of the provincial election campaign finds the conservatives are off to a good start and the opposition are yet to find traction.
Environics did a telephone survey February 1-4.
The Progressive Conservatives have the support of 52 per cent of decided voters across the province.
The Alberta Liberals come in at 25 per cent, the NDP ten per cent, the Green Party 7 per cent and the Wildrose Alliance 6 per cent.
19 per cent of respondants are undecided or chose not to answer the question.
Older and more affluent voters tend to back the tories while the liberals are more popular with younger voters and students.
The tories also have 48 per cent support in Calgary while the liberals are at 29 per cent.
It's not much different in Edmonton but in the rest of the province the tories jump to 57 per cent and the liberals drop to 19 per cent.
And Ed Stelmach's own poll numbers are even less than any other Tory leader, less than even the much maligned Don Getty.

That's what happens when a central campaign starts to fly off the rails. Ed's might be heading for a dry gulch even deeper than the one former Premier Don Getty's campaign crashed into in 1989. Like Stelmach, Getty made a string of money promises which he could not explain. They were deeply flawed as policy and made voters worry about debt.

Also, like Stelmach, Getty had no discernible vision for the province beyond providing something expensive to every group that might be upset.

It's all eerily familiar to veterans of that bizarre 1989 campaign.

Don Getty lost his own Edmonton Whitemud riding. Later he limped to a byelection victory in Stettler, and governed listlessly until his party ran him out of the leadership in 1992.

His only saving grace is that he is not alone in being a charismatically challenged leader.

A January opinion poll showed 28.5 per cent of Albertans think Stelmach would make the best premier, well in front of nearest rival, Liberal Leader Kevin Taft.

For some critics, the weakness in the polls is enough to compare Stelmach to Harry Strom, who was the leader of the Social Credit government when its 36-year dynasty was snuffed out by Peter Lougheed's Progressive Conservatives in 1971.

McCormick said there are some comparisons to be made -- Strom was a decent man in charge of a low-key government that was more progressive than it's remembered today.

"He just couldn't project it," McCormick said. "Where Stelmach is really lucky is, although he reminds us of Harry Strom, Kevin Taft doesn't remind us at all of Peter Lougheed."

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