Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Arts Vote Cost Jaffer His Job

Alberta and Quebec have long been allies in their opposition to the powers of Ottawa. This past election that commonality was shown in the reaction to Harpers Arts and Culture cuts. While pundits focused on Quebec's reaction they overlooked its impact in Alberta. In particular in Festival City; Redmonton.

The defeat of Edmonton Strathcona MP Rahim Jaffer was a direct result of Harpers attack on Arts and Cultural workers. After all Redmonton has a booming arts and culture community, we have the Winspear and the Citadel, the Jubilee, we have arts groups and theatre groups, a major Symphony, Jazz City, the Fringe Festival, an International Childrens Arts Festival, a Buskers Ball, the Edmonton Folk Festival and an International Street Preformers festival, etc, etc.

Edmonton Strathcona itself is one of the cities Arts hub. Known to all as Old Strathcona with its infamous Whyte Avenue at its core, it is the centre of the Theatre community hosting the second largest Fringe Festival in the world. Not only do Edmontonians produce and preform the plays, they are mass of volunteers needed to run the Fringe and the mass of visitors to the Fringe.

Did Harper miss this fact? You bet. When the uproar over his political purging of arts funding mobilized the Arts and Cultural community, it was a nation wide response. Of course the greatest coverage was its impact in Quebec where polls showed Harper's policy led to loss of support for the Conservatives.

But overlooked was its impact here in Redmonton. Harper backpedaled and announced that he had increased Heritage Canada funding, but that of course is tied to politically correct Conservative values, then he annouced increased funding for arts and culture for wait for it....children to take piano and dance lessons. He overlooked the fact that dance classes were already eligable for his childrens athletics tax credit that the government introduced last election. And how does funding piano lessons equate with funding for Symphony orcehstra's, Opera, etc. It doesn't. And so it cost Rahim his job.

Arts voters in Edmonton Strathcona voted strategically. And not only NDP and Liberals but Conservatives as well. When it comes to Edmonton Strathcona which is the Reddest part of Redmonton, we have elected NDP MLA's here. When the provincial Tories run candidates here they have been Red Tories,

Rahim was in a tough fight and he knew it. From the start he did something he has not done in previous elections, put up lawn signs. There were Jaffer signs on my street and my moms street where they had never been before. But like the Liberal signs many were on rental or commercial properties, put their in many cases not by the renters but the landlord.

Linda Duncan ran an excellent campaign, and it was based on building a base through three elections. The NDP made a break through federally in the riding when they ran Malcolm Azania, and broke through the usual two way race between Conservatives and Liberals which had left the party trailing a distant third over the years.

The Azania campaign team stayed on and recruited Linda to run last election. She further consolidated the NDP's second place standing loosing to Jaffer by only 5000 votes, votes that had gone to the non-existant Liberal candidate. In that election it was the Liberals who were the vote spliters.

But this election it was clearly a two way race, and despite his sign campaign Jaffers laziness and arrogance cost him. He did not address the Arts cuts, nor did he distance himself from the Harper arts attacks when Harper insulted all cultural workers and masses of volunteers who support them by calling them elitists. In fact he insulted some of the leading citizens of this city who are proud of the efforts they have put into fund raising for Arts and Culture, including wealth bourgoise like the Winspears who donated to have the Winspear Centre for the Arts built. Opps.

Jafers arrogance was on public display election night when at ten o'clock he got up to announce his imminent victory, which the media mistakenly announced not noticing that their were still 14 polls not counted, polls which included mine which are all strong NDP polls.

He was pulled down from the podium by an aide who told him it wasn't in the bag yet.

When he lost he was at a loss for words for several days, again Jaffer's arrogance was publicly displayed with his refusal to concide the election. He only announced his final defeat the same day he eloped with fellow MP Helen Guergis.

The delicious irony of this is that he appears to be off to Ottawa to live with Helen as her live in Assistant and Helen will have lots of time to spend with Rahim since it is speculated that she is destined for the back bench in the upcoming cabinet shuffle.

Yes Linda Duncan and her team ran a great campaign. But in the end we have to thank Stephen Harper for attacking the Arts and Culture community, it pushed her over the top. And put a bright orange spot in the middle of Blue Alberta.

And this is no minor break through. It shows that the Harpocrites policy of taking Alberta for granted cost them big time in Edmonton Strathcona. Next election that vulnerability could lead to more defeats for the Harpocrites.

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Werner Patels said...

Let's face it: the choice in Edmonton-Strathcona was a no-brainer. Linda Duncan is a bright, intelligent and dedicated individual -- the kind we need to have more of in the House of Commons (regardless of their party affiliation).

I particularly admire her strong views about education -- if you have noticed, education didn't even rate a mention during the election campaign. We are ignoring education issues at our own peril and that of future Canadians.

I was positively thrilled when I heard that Linda had won. But as I told Jack Layton himself (the night before the Outremont by-election last fall), Linda will go far. He agreed with me, but somehow he didn't strike me as 100% sure -- but I was. I knew she was going to get in eventually.

eugene plawiuk said...

You and me both Werner. The Edmonton Strathcona campaign learned from the provincial election strategy we used in 1997, name recognition counts as does running between elections, keeping the campaign going with door drops of infor etc. They built on the break through that Malcolm made in the riding. And the close count last time showed that Liberals in the riding were the vote splitters. It was important to get that Liberal vote on side. And again it was a MAJOR political blunder for Harper to attack Arts and Culture.
You are right about Education as well since the U of A is centred in the Old Scona riding. A base that Jaffer used to count on. But as he moved to Ottawa and surrounded himself localy with drinking buddies they underestimated the shift in the University base he used to count on for votes.
Linda was very understaded as an environmentalist surprisingly make less an issue about that, though her credentials will do alot for the NDP to counter the Greens and Elizabeth May in particular.
Finally Linda after the election blasted the Harpocrites for their attack on bitument production here, sounding off as a true Albertan defending provincial energy rights!!!! Better than Stelmach did....So like you I look to her being well placed in Laytons Shadow Cabinet.....and I look at this as building a base here like we have with the provincial rididng.
Redmonton is the Harpocrites Alberta achilles heel.