Grading the Campaigns

In my post The Paths to Success for Alberta’s Political Parties, I outlined what it would take for each party to be successful. With just a few days left on the campaign, let’s look at how they’ve done.report

Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta

What did they need to do?

  • Avoid treating the election as a necessary evil. The PCs have governed for almost 44 years and have to avoid coming off as arrogant and dismissive of democratic structures.
  • Continue to occupy the majority of the centre right of the political spectrum while pushing the Wildrose further to the fringe right.
  • Prentice needs to avoid making unforced errors throughout the campaign. He has proven that he has a penchant for walking himself into mistakes (ie blaming Albertans, candidate nomination messes, Bill 10, mishandling the floor crossing) and under the pressure of a campaign, mistakes like these are far more likely.
  • Successfully sell the need for a budget that included billions of dollars of increased taxes.
  • Divorce themselves from the PC policies that created the fiscal hole that Alberta government is in.
  • Frame the election as a PC vs NDP battle. This would marginalize both the Wildrose and Liberals and would allow the PCs to pick up potential “blue Liberal” voters in Calgary and Edmonton while picking up moderate Wildrose supporters.

How have they done?

Jim Prentice has run on his name and on his budget. Both have become anchors that have dragged down his campaign. He has not been able to avoid coming off as arrogant and his downer personality has been off-putting. He has continued to cause unforced errors (ie “Math is Hard) and his campaign has been unable to prove agile enough to get back on course. He has framed the election as a PC vs NDP battle but by the time he did so, the PCs had sunk pretty deep and was in third place in the polls. The fearmongering against the NDP hasn’t proved particularly effective thus far and it appears that the end is nigh for the PC dynasty.

Grade: F

Wildrose Party of Alberta

What did they need to do?

  • Spend significant resources to build Brian Jean’s media profile.
  • Capitalize on the opening presented by the tax increases in the budget to build a compelling case for a strong fiscally conservative opposition.
  • Focus on the constituencies that they currently represent and target a few additional constituencies that have weak incumbents. Don’t stretch resources too thin.
  • Determine if they will present themselves as a rural right wing populist party or a bigger tent conservative party that will compete on Prentice’s turf. The rural populist route would allow them to consolidate their base but could turn them into back into the rural rump that they were under Paul Hinman. If they go the other route and take on Prentice by following Smith’s original plan to moderate the party, they may alienate their rural base but they could build in the urban centres to help set them up for future elections.
  • Avoid any “bozo eruptions” from candidates throughout the election campaign.

How have they done?

Brian Jean and his team have run an under the radar campaign. It has been very quiet – especially compared to the Danielle Smith show of 2012. Other than two candidates in Calgary who were promptly punted, Jean has effectively kept his candidates from “bozo eruptions”. Jean himself didn’t exactly wow anyone at his debate (unless you are wowed by mindless repetition of one talking point) but he also hasn’t embarrassed himself. Jean has also been able to provide stability to a party that seemed to be teetering on the verge of extinction. He has done this by effectively focusing on fiscal issues and capitalizing on the opportunity provided by the tax increases in Prentice’s budget. Early in the campaign it appeared that the Wildrose had a legitimate shot of a minority government but their polling numbers have receded back towards the mid twenties.

Grade: B+

Alberta Liberals

What did they need to do?

  • The Liberals have the lowest bar to reach to obtain success but face the largest hurdles to obtain it.
  • David Swann has to outperform expectations throughout the campaign.
  • They need to keep the election from becoming an absolute PC romp or a horse race between either the PCs/WR or PCs/NDP
  • A stronger Wildrose presence would split the right vote and subsequently lower the percentage of vote required to elect a Liberal MLA.
  • They will likely need mistakes from either Prentice or Notley to capitalize on.
  • They need to focus their resources on just a few ridings to maintain their presence in the Legislature.
  • They need to fight back the NDP surge in Edmonton to allow them to retake seats in a future election. The Liberals would be better served with re-elected PC MLAs in Edmonton than new NDP MLAs.

How have they done?

Things have not gone well for the Liberals. They were marginalized early when they could only run a slate of 56 candidates out of 87 constituencies and it has only gotten worse throughout the campaign. The PC/NDP “horse race” has proven devastating as most progressive Liberals have moved to the NDP and what is left behind are die hard Liberals – of which there are very few. David Swann was not able to surprise at the debate by outperforming expectations. He was unable keep the debate from turning into the Prentice/Notley show. They have had little media presence throughout the campaign and will be relying on Swann’s and Blakeman’s personal brands to maintain any presence in the Legislature.

Grade: D-

Alberta’s NDP

What did they need to do?

  • Need to frame election as a choice between PCs and NDP – marginalizing both the Wildrose and Liberals. They have to become the “anyone but PC” option.
  • Need to put Rachel Notley front and centre. She is a huge asset.
  • Party platform needs to have at least a few ambitious party planks to excite their base. They need to learn lessons from Ontario, BC, and Nova Scotia where the NDP tried to “broaden their base” but forgot their base. Particular in Ontario and Nova Scotia, the NDP was outflanked to the left by the Liberals and this alienated many of the party’s traditional supporters and volunteers.
  • Put forward a compelling clean energy strategy that does not demonize oil companies. Many Albertans (particularly Calgarians) see working in oil and gas as a means to provide for their families and do not want those jobs to go away.
  • Present a clear progressive alternative to the tax increases in Prentice’s budget. Don’t allow the Prentice tax increases (ie largely personal consumption taxes/user fees) sour Albertans on progressive tax options.

How have they done?

Despite a tiny campaign budget, the NDP has been able to galvanize Albertans for change. They’ve done it by running an agile campaign that has been able to react quickly to capitalize on the mistakes of the PCs and to also mitigate their own mistakes (budget miscalculation, bad press on Northern Gateway, social media mistake with targeting PC candidates). Rachel Notley has been the star of the campaign and her debate performance was spectacular. She was able to brush off Prentice’s attacks with a smile and effective counter attack when necessary without sounding angry or scary. The NDP didn’t fall into the trap of “tinkering around the edges” like the Ontario NDP did in the earlier campaign – instead, the party has motivated their base by offering an ambitious agenda that is unabashedly NDP. Most importantly, they had the best salesperson for that platform in Rachel Notley.

Grade: A

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Week 3 Recap – Alberta Provincial Election Campaign

The third week of the campaign was an extremely busy one.

Here is a rundown on the comings and goings:

  • Former Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk and current PC candidate in Edmonton Castledowns tweeted his support for an increased corporate sales tax.
  • Jim Prentice decided to backtrack on his much maligned plans to lower the tax credit for charitable donations from 21% to 12.5%
  • The Alberta NDP had a #fail with their social media campaign to target high profile PC candidates to support a change to the corporate sales tax. The campaign filled up two of the most commonly used twitter hashtag feeds (#abvote and #ableg) with what was deemed to be “spam”.
  • The Alberta Leader’s Debate where Jim Prentice ignored both Brian Jean and David Swann to specifically target Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley.
  • Prentice aimed for Rachel Notley but instead shot himself in the foot with his “Math is difficult” comment during the debate. This comment blew up on twitter with the #MathIsHard hashtag.
  • A Forum Poll that put the NDP in first place at 38% – and first in Calgary and Edmonton
  • Questions for Rachel Notley about her party’s opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline.
  • In a situation that proved the politics does indeed make strange bedfellows, Danielle Smith explained Rachel Notley’s position on pipelines. This was after Smith deemed Notley as the winner of the Leader’s Debate.
  • Prominent PCs started a #LifeWithNDP twitter account and hashtag which was designed to share horror stories of people living with NDP governments. This twitter hashtag very quickly was taken over by progressive Albertans who used the hashtag to show how much different and, in their opinion, better Alberta would be with an NDP government.
  • A very odd event for Calgary McCall PC Candidate Jagdeep Sahota was publicized by extreme conservative firebrand Craig Chandler who acts as her campaign manager. This was a “ladies only” event with Jim Prentice and Sahota and was advertised by Chandler as at an “undisclosed location” which would be disclosed by Chandler upon receipt of a text indicating their interest. This event conflicted with part of a local Calgary McCall debate in which Sahota proceeded to leave the debate and allow Chandler to debate in her place.
  • Jonathan Denis (PC candidate in Calgary Acadia) resigned as Solicitor General due to an undisclosed personal issue before the courts. He will remain candidate in Calgary Acadia and still has the support of Jim Prentice.
  • In a stunning statement for a major party leader, David Swann announced that “If you can’t vote Liberal, vote anything else but the Tories.” This will not help the already flagging Liberal chances on election day.

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Alberta Leaders’ Debate Review

After a debate, the usual clichés usually emerge: “There were no knockout blows”, “Everyone did what they had to do”, “<Insert name of leader who you are spinning for> won the debate”.

Last night was different.

By all accounts, it was Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley’s night. She was poised, sharp, and prepared. Even more importantly, Jim Prentice gave her the biggest compliment of all. She was his notleytarget. A sitting Premier who spends the entire forum targeting the leader of the fourth party in the Legislature is pretty high praise indeed.

One has to ask why Prentice was doing this? In a pre-election post that I wrote, I argued that Prentice would be smart to frame the election as a two way race between him and the NDP. This would allow him to marginalize the Alberta Liberals and the Wildrose. However, like most people at the time, I believed that the PCs were well ahead in the polls. As just about every poll during the campaign has shown, that is simply not the case – the PCs are apparently lagging behind in third place.

Was Prentice trying to scare Wildrose voters to his party to do the “reverse Redford”? In 2012, Alison Redford and her team effectively lured progressive voters to her side by horrifying them about the implications of a Wildrose regime. She had some progressive bona fides in her back pocket from her support of teachers and the LGBT community.

Prentice obviously believes that he has Conservative bona fides appears to be setting up the same trap for Wildrose supporters that Redford set for progressives. He wants to scare conservative voters into his arms. Prentice ignored Brian Jean for the vast majority of the debate which is good strategy for two reasons: 1) Going too hard after Jean would make it harder to appeal to Jean’s voters, 2) Ignoring Jean completely made Jean appear to be a bit player in the battle for Premier.

There are a couple of major problems with Prentice’s strategy though. Redford was in a clear second place position when she made her appeal to progressive voters. She was really the only one who could stop the Wildrose from winning. Prentice, from all polling information, in third place in the polls. It is pretty hard to make the argument that the PCs are the only party that can stop the NDP government when people are seeing that the Wildrose is actually the party that is closest in the polls to the NDP. The second problem is that Notley handled every single Prentice attack with aplomb. She didn’t look scary, she didn’t break a sweat and, in fact, several times during the debate she countered Prentice’s jabs with left hooks. Furthermore, Prentice’s “Math is difficult” comment looked condescending and arrogant. For a government that has been regularly leveled with the charge of being arrogant, the last thing that Prentice wanted to come out of the debate be seen as is arrogant. Chalk the “Math is difficult” statement up as another Prentice self-inflicted injury.

Brian Jean stayed on message. Boy did he stay on message. I think he wants to lower taxes. Thankfully, I wasn’t playing a drinking game about how often the Wildrose would talk about taxes because I wouldn’t be able to write this blog post today. Or if I somehow I could manage to get to try to write in that inebriated state…it would read much as if my cat had walked across my keyboard. Jean didn’t look like Premier material. He looked like a man who just joined provincial politics and didn’t know much about what was going on. He must have enjoyed watching Notley take down Prentice knowing that every punch that she was landing was pushing the PCs further down in the polls.

Poor David Swann. He is a wonderful person. That is really all that I can say.

Who knows how this debate will impact the May 5th results. Notley clearly had the wind in her sails going into the debate and that wind may have turned into a bit of a gale last night. The question is how will the PC “reverse Redford” tactic work? Will the fear of a strong NDP push voters into the arms of Prentice, will it push voters in Jean’s direction, or will NDP momentum rally voters to join a wave to elect their first truly progressive government?

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Alberta Election Dictionary

Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA): An organization that advocates on behalf of Alberta’s municipalities to various levels of government as well as provides an opportunity for municipalities to work together to reach mutual goals.

The AUMA’s board is composed of a President, two directors from Calgary, two directors from Edmonton, three directors from Cities with a population of up to 500,000, three from Towns, three from Villages and one representing Summer Villages. These board members must be elected officials from their respective municipality.

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS): A project to collect carbon dioxide from emitters (ie power plants, refineries, etc) and transport it to an underground storage facility with the purpose of avoiding release into the atmosphere. Alberta committed $1.3 billion over 15 years to two CCS projects (Alberta Carbon Trunk Line and Quest Project). This plan was first announced in 2010 under Premier Ed Stelmach. Newly elected Premier Jim Prentice announced in Oct 2014 that, although Alberta will proceed with committed CCS projects, no further CCS projects will be funded.

There are several concerns with CCS: 1) the long term impacts of the buried waste material, 2) it is at best a bandaid solution to a bigger problem of our dependence on technology that emits huge amounts of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, 3) it is costly – both the requirements needed to enable capture the CO2 at the project and the need to transport and store it make it an expensive project.

Charitable Donation Tax Credit: In Alberta’s 2015 budget, the Prentice government announced that the tax credit for donations to charities would be cut from 21% to 12.75% on donations over $200. This means that a $500 donation to charities that the tax credit would be reduced from $63 to  $38.25 for the portion of the donation above $200. This decision was expected to save the Alberta government $90 million annually. However, it caused a significant backlash from the non-profit sector as they worried about the impact that this would have on the donations that they rely upon. On April 21st, 2015, Prentice backtracked on the decision and as such, if re-elected, the Prentice government will not change the tax credit percentages.

Calgary Young Offender Centre (CYOC): in March 2015, the Alberta government announced that they will be shutting down the Calgary Young Offenders Centre and moving the young offenders that occupy the Calgary location to Edmonton. The Calgary location handled young offenders from all of southern Alberta. This was done as a cost saving measure but has been criticized as a short sighted decision by many in the legal community. The main concern is that displacing youth from family will hinder their rehabilitation and once they leave the program, they would lose the resources that they have in Edmonton upon their release when they move back to southern Alberta.

Cap and Trade: a market system designed to reduce greenhouse gas emission by incentivizing the innovation and efficiency. In such a system, a business would have a predetermined quota of emissions. If they are below that quota, they can sell credits to companies who are not able to lower their emissions to their quota.

Carbon Tax: a dedicated tax paid based on the amount of greenhouse gas emitted from burning fuels. For example, British Columbia charges $30 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions.

Carbon Levy: Alberta charges a $15 per tonne levy for exceeding the intensity targets provided by the Alberta government. If the emitter is below the intensity target, the company pays nothing. This system has been criticized for having too high of intensity targets. Companies, in Alberta, generally less than $1 per tonne of their CO2 emission.

City Charter: In October 2014, the cities of Calgary and Edmonton agreed to a framework agreement with the provincial government of a city charter. Such a charter could provide additional legislative powers and amend the method of funding. The details are to be worked out by spring 2016.

Family and Community Support Services (FCSS): A joint provincial/municipal grant program that funds organizations as they try to support the challenges of Albertans and their families. Examples of organizations that have received funding from FCSS include Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Immigrant Services Calgary, North West Edmonton Seniors Society. FCSS is 80% funded by the provincial government and 20% funded by municipalities. FCSS funding has been frozen at $74.8 million (0.2% of the provincial budget) since 2009.

Flat Income Tax structure: In 2000, the Alberta government brought in a 10% flat tax for all incomes above the basic annual threshold. As such, someone making $2,000,000 would pay the same percentage of income tax above the basic annual amount as someone making $50,000. This was eliminated in 2015 as Jim Prentice brought in two additional tax brackets – one above $100,000 and one above $250,000 – which would pay higher tax percentages on their income.

Health Levy: in Budget 2015, Jim Prentice announced that any person making from $50,000-$70,000 would pay up to $200 per year for a health levy. $70,000 – $90,000 would pay up to $400 per year. $90,000 to $110,000 would pay up to $800 and anyone making over $130,000 would pay up to $1,000 per year. Alberta had a health care premium system that was eliminated in 2009.

Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs): school clubs that are designed to provide a safe place for LGBT youth in their school environment. Studies have shown that GSAs have positive impacts on the lives of LGBT youth and reduce bullying and suicide. Alberta Liberal MLA Kent Hehr proposed Motion 503 which mandated that school boards could not support for any students who wanted to start a GSA in their school. Despite support from the Alberta NDP and some PC and Wildrose MLAs, it did not pass. This issue was then brought up again by Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman with Bill 202. This bill caused serious strife within the Wildrose and PC caucuses. In fact, it was the GSA issue which was referred to by Danielle Smith as she announced her defection from the Wildrose caucus. Bill 202 was deemed redundant by the PC government as they replaced it with government Bill 10. This iteration of the legislation did not mandate GSA support but required that any student who was denied GSA access could go to court to argue for it. This was not a popular compromise and ultimately the Prentice government backtracked and passed legislation that ensured that school boards could not stop GSA access if students wanted it.

Market Modifiers: a means for Alberta post secondary institutions to increase tuition for a program based on demand, graduation employment prospects, and comparisons to other programs at other post-secondary institutions. Alberta caps tuition increases to a specific percentage and market modifiers allow the universities to go above and beyond that amount. This market modifier concept was introduced in 2010 and, at the time, it was to considered to be a one time occurrence. However, in 2014, market modifiers were again approved.

Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI): provincial funding for municipalities for capital infrastructure projects such as roads. MSI is a $11.1 billion dollar initiative and there was an announcement of a boost of $400 million dollars to the fund as part of the 2014-15 budget forecast in early March 2015 but the subsequent 2015-26 budget cut that amount by $373.9 million.

Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP): A program that provided wage subsidies to employers in government, small businesses and non-profit when they hired Alberta students during the summer. This program was called a “crutch” by Premier Alison Redford and was eliminated in 2013. The Alberta NDP is calling on the government to reinstate the program.

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Recap of Week Two – Alberta Provincial Election Campaign

Week One of Alberta’s provincial election campaign saw a bit of a cataclysmic shift. The Wildrose and NDP surged while the PCs and Liberals fell in the polls. In Week Two those polls appeared to solidify as we head towards the crucial Leaders Debate.

What did we see in Week Two?

  • The Alberta NDP had to replace promising Medicine Hat candidate Jason Soklofske who was charged with simple assault on the campaign trail
  • The Wildrose tossed Calgary Varsity candidate Russ Kuykendall after he made anti-gay comments in a blog post
  • The Alberta Liberals decided to run a candidate against Alberta Party leader Greg Clark but could only muster 56 total candidates in 87 constituencies
  • The PC’s Constituency President/Campaign Manager in Edmonton-McClung resigned after Islamophobic tweets/comments were discovered.

Each party released their platforms – here is a list of highlighted promises that each party made:

PC Alberta Platform

  • Before debt is paid down: Use 25% oil revenues – Contingency Fund and Pay Down Debt, Use 25% oil revenues – Heritage Fund and 50% oil revenues – Operating Expenses
  • Once the debt is paid down: 50% of oil revenues will go to savings.
  • Honour public sector contracts now in place, but as they expire negotiate new contracts based on our fiscal reality.
  • Gradually – over three years – restrain our spending across all ministries.
  • Bring the cost of Alberta’s public services in line with the national average over the next three to four years.
  • Reform our income tax system. New tax brackets will be fair and competitive and make Alberta’s income tax system more progressive. Gradually – over three years –taxes will increase on taxable income over $100,000.
  • Report on Alberta’s finances on a fully consolidated basis in a format supported by the Auditor General of Alberta, starting in 2015/16.
  • Issue a report card on Alberta’s savings every six months.
  • Provide public reporting in advance of any international travel for government staff.
  • Focus on regional decision-making in health care. Establish 8-10 operational districts. Each district will be aligned with a local advisory council to give the community a say on how their health care is delivered.
  • Improve safety standards and quality of care in health facilities by strengthening the system to monitor, audit and ensure compliance.
  • Review of the largest hospitals to improve efficiencies and costs through acute care hospital benchmarking.
  • Expand programs to support the mental health needs of children.
  • Invest in emergency department expansions – including the South Health Campus and Peter Lougheed Center in Calgary and the Royal Alexandra, Grey Nuns and Misericordia hospitals in Edmonton.
  • Invest in additional surgical capacity.
  • Ensure access to afterhours care through Primary Care Networks.
  • Opening up more continuing care and restorative care spaces for seniors and others with complex needs, to free up acute care beds.
  • Use the full skills of all our health professionals by enabling paramedics, nurses and optometrists to do more.
  • Invest oil revenues in the Heritage Savings Trust Fund, doubling the size of the Fund by 2024/25.
  • Provide stable funding for research and innovation.
  • Make lasting social investments like Heritage Scholarships for young people.
  • Invest in health, education and heritage infrastructure.
  • Draw on the Contingency Fund to help pay operating expenses until 2017/18.
  • Starting in 2017/18 (once the budget is balanced), use a portion of energy revenues to replenish the Contingency Fund to its original $5 billion and to pay down Alberta’s debt overall.
  • Cut government waste to focus dollars on the jobs of classroom teachers and frontline health workers. Alberta Education achieved a 9% reduction in administration costs in the 2015/16 budget, and these cost savings were moved to support frontline costs.
  • Maintain the lowest small business taxes in Canada and maintain our competitive corporate tax advantage so investors and job creators will stay in Alberta.
  • Continue to invest in infrastructure even if the economy slows in order to keep people working and take advantage of market construction prices.
  • Build on Alberta’s strengths and advantages to strengthen our economy across all sectors.
  • Complete the construction of over 200 new and modernization school projects.
  • Deliver more than 160 new modular classrooms this year.
  • Show progress on projects through an online report card.
  • Fund health care capacity expansion projects in Calgary and Edmonton.
  • Support construction of health facility projects throughout Alberta.
  • Complete the twinning of Highway 63 between Grassland and Fort McMurray to improve safety and increase economic activity.
  • Continue construction of the Edmonton and Calgary ring roads.
  • Twin Highway 19 between QEII and Highway 60 near the Edmonton International Airport. This will address safety, add southbound capacity on the QEII and support continued economic growth.
  • Develop a long-term transportation strategy that includes a plan for a sufficient road and transit networks across Alberta.
  • Triple the budget for provincial infrastructure maintenance and renewal over the next five years.
  • Add three new Parent Link Centres that provide free parenting and play programs to meet the unique needs of families.
  • Develop a strategy for higher student achievement including: curriculum changes, coherent grading, 21st century competencies such as innovation, communication and critical thinking.
  • Shift diploma exam weighting from a 50/50 to a 30/70 weighting where school-awarded grades will be worth 70 per cent.
  • Dual-credit partnerships: students can now take high school trades and skills courses and get credits at a post-secondary institution.
  • Promote safe, dignified and respectful education environments. Invest in Teacher Excellence Our teachers play a vital role in preparing our children to complete in a 21st century economy and we will give them the tools and support they need to do so.
  • Preserve front line teaching positions.
  • Invest in training and support for Alberta teachers with a focus on math as an essential skill.
  • Work with educators to ensure professional teaching standards address the diverse needs of students in the 21st century.
  • Provide support and mentorship for new teachers.
  • Enhance financial aid (scholarships, grants and awards) and student loans for post-secondary students, including apprentices.
  • Develop a long-term plan to ensure stable funding for institutions.
  • Ensure apprenticeship training is better aligned with labour market demands.
  • New supplement for families with income under $41,220 – up to $2,750 per year
  • Increase the family employment tax credit – $346-$763 more per year
  • Increase support for persons with disabilities, including PDD, families of children with disabilities and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder initiatives.
  • Increase Legal Aid funding. Action: Ensure the Michener Centre stays open and operational to support the needs of its residents.
  • Ensure support for youth, women’s and homeless shelters and sexual assault services.
  • Help ageing Albertans stay at home and stay independent for as long as possible. – Enhance home care capacity.
  • When a senior can no longer live at home, ensure access to affordable living spaces in their own communities – Open 464 continuing care beds and 2,612 supportive living spaces.
  • Ensure all Albertans can depend on safe and secure long-term care.
  • Upgrade sprinkler and fire safety systems in 75 seniors lodges – improving 4,700 units over three years – and in 30 other seniors facilities with 1,750 continuing care spaces. Require minimum staffing standards for seniors lodges – a minimum of two staff members present at all times.
  • Implement a strong and effective elder abuse prevention strategy.
  • Promote the advantages of doing business in Alberta to attract investment and jobs to the province.
  • Introduce a Cultural Plan over the next three years: leverage our cultural and tourism resources.
  • Improve the quality of the SuperNet, especially in rural Alberta.
  • Help Alberta-based entrepreneurs access the venture capital they need.
  • There are over 50 million acres of agricultural land in the province. Alberta’s agriculture industry drives $77 billion in economic activity each year.
  • Expand opportunities for entrepreneurs to use established facilities such as the Leduc Food Processing Development Centre and Agri-Value Processing Business Incubator for product development, key research, innovation and commercialization.
  • Promote consumer confidence in Alberta as a leader in farm animal health and welfare, plant health and safe food products. The average age of agriculture producers in Alberta is 54 and increasing. To ensure the sustainability and growth of our agriculture system, we need to attract and retain new producers.
  • Focus programs on attracting the next generation of agriculture producers to Alberta and supporting them as they enter the industry. Invest in Clean Technologies Being a leading energy producer comes with a responsibility to be a leader in environmental and clean energy technologies. Investment in these innovations creates high value green jobs of the future.
  • Update the mandate of the Climate Change Emissions Management Corporation to accelerate technological investment and partnerships to address specific environmental challenges such as venting and flaring reduction technologies, engineering solutions to GHG emissions and carbon reduction technologies.
  • Drive innovation and the development of clean technologies across key Alberta sectors – in energy, forestry, agriculture and transportation.
  • Position our agriculture industry for growth by encouraging innovation and enhancing access to international markets, especially in the Asia Pacific Region.
  • Leverage emerging opportunities from the Canada-EU Free Trade Agreement to further open the world’s largest market for our products and services.
  • Reduce interprovincial trade barriers and promote free trade within Canada.
  • Expand Alberta’s market access and petrochemical capacity to become a preferred global supplier, particularly of energy and natural resources.
  • Expand export infrastructure in Canada so that our businesses and industries can efficiently deliver their products to market.
  • The introduction of Bill 1, the Respecting Property Rights Act, repealed previous property rights legislation that concerned landowners across the province (Bill 19). The Respecting Property Rights Act is a solid base from which to start to rebuild a lasting commitment to these key rights.
  • The Alberta Land Stewardship Act (Bill 36) will also be reviewed to ensure the land use planning process does not infringe on property rights. The Prentice Plan makes a clear commitment to ensure that government does not have – and never will have – the right to take away land for public purposes without providing full, fair and proper compensation under Alberta’s Expropriation Act.
  • Help municipalities fund their infrastructure needs – including transportation, transit and libraries. Action: Continue to support the long-term recovery of municipalities affected by the 2013 southern Alberta floods. And strengthen the prevention, mitigation and preparedness efforts for future public safety and disaster management. 18 The Prentice Plan Choose Alberta’s Future
  • Improve the First Nations Engagement Strategy to strengthen relationships with Aboriginal leaders and communities to support Aboriginal people. Education Action: Increase the number of First Nations, Metis and Inuit education professionals. Ensure professional standards for teachers and principals require a knowledge of Aboriginal culture.
  • Work with First Nations Chiefs on a made-in-Alberta partnership between the province and First Nations Education Authorities to improve educational outcomes for Aboriginal children. Employment
  • Increase the number of Aboriginal postsecondary students and apprentices. Action: Develop action plans and long-term initiatives to match Aboriginal people with employment and apprenticeship opportunities in Alberta.
  • Establish Alberta Aboriginal Construction Career Centres that will support Aboriginal training and employment in trades careers. They will deliver employment training, job coaching and counselling with a focus on construction trades.
  • Improve integration of health services on reserves through partnerships with the federal government and First Nations communities.
  • Commit to achieving ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reductions through a comprehensive climate change strategy.
  • Flood mitigation: more than 500 hectares of wetlands and about 36 kilometres of riparian areas will be restored or enhanced, mostly in southern Alberta.
  • New steps to reduce tailings ponds and to regulate the use of water from the Athabasca River as part of ongoing efforts to reduce the environmental impact of oil sands development.
  • Limit the amount of tailings that can be accumulated.
  • Enforce firm thresholds that will trigger remedial action to prevent harm to the environment.
  • Ensure tailings ponds are ready to be reclaimed within 10 years of the end-of-mine life of the project.
  • Implement the Water Conservation Action Plan.
  • Enhance and clarify a lake health governance system.
  • Implement science-based standards for baseline water well testing near hydraulic fracturing operations.
  • Work with municipalities to improve the sustain ability of their water systems.
  • Complete the Trans Canada Trail in Alberta by 2017.

Wildrose Party platform

  • Balance the budget by 2017 without raising taxes or cutting front line services
  • Include all capital spending in a transparent budget surplus figure
  • Create an Independent Budget Office to provide independent analysis of budget projections, economic forecasts, and cost estimates
  • Invest 50% of budget surpluses into the neglected Heritage Fund and leave interest to compound, growing it to $200 billion in 20 years
  • Invest 10% of budget surpluses in 10/10 MSI, and 15% in other regional infrastructure projects like LRT
  • Invest 25% of budget surpluses in the Contingency Account until it reaches $5 billion, and then into a Debt Repayment Account
  • Prohibit all government grants and loan guarantees to corporations
  • Eliminate sole-source contracts and guarantee an open tendering and bidding process on all major government procurement and contracts
  • Reduce managerial ranks across government and streamline decision-making • End wasteful“March Madness”spending sprees
  • Cap severance agreements for all publicly funded executives
  • Reduce government travel and advertising by 50%
  • End politicized infrastructure spending by mandating public disclosure of the government’s priority list and the rationale for all infrastructure projects and maintenance
  • Protect existing pension benefits for all public sector workers and pensioners
  • Expand the patient-care based funding model to include community-based out-patient health services, primary care services, and publicly contracted community based surgical service facilities, allowing health care funding to follow the patient to the provider of their choice, and encouraging greater use of non-hospital services
  • Empower patients to take control of their health care experiences by creating a publicly accessible and secure patient health care portal so patients are able to access their own health care records, referrals, appointments, publiclypaid billing fees, and other pertinent information
  • Establish a system to track and report, in real-time, health care system performance measures, surgical and emergency room wait times, bed availability, and other important health care metrics
  • Attach this performance measure tracking system to the Patient Health Care Portal to allow patients personalized and real-time updates on wait times and availability for the services and treatments they personally require
  • Focus on preventative care and strategies to drive down long term health costs and deal with chronic care
  • Reduce wait times by finding savings in extravagant Alberta Health Services executive pay, perks, severance and wasteful bureaucracy, and reinvesting the savings directly into funding additional surgeries and other health procedures
  • Reallocate funding for home care, supported housing, assisted living, long-term care facilities, and palliative care hospices to provide patient-friendly choices and needs-based alternatives to hospital care
  • Implement a ‘Wait Time Guarantee’ that will reduce surgical and specialist wait times by funding needed services for Alberta patients outside the provincial system should timely access to medically necessary procedures be unavailable; the cost up to the Government rate to have that same procedure performed in the public system would go to the health provider
  • Investigate and examine ways to address the more than $1 billion of estimated annual fraud in our health care system 10
  • Reallocate funds for proven community and non-profit organizations that work to prevent, assist and treat those suffering from addiction, abuse and other mental health issues
  • Invest in preventative care strategies that reduce overall system costs
  • Establish community counselling services in existing health facilities that offer same-day access and service for those seeking mental health and addictions treatment
  • Encourage health care professionals to come forward when they see waste or fraud by protecting whistleblowers
  • Gradually decentralize the delivery of health care services to the local or facility level
  • Create a single unified electronic health care record allowing and records to flow quickly and without barriers between health care professionals within Alberta and nationally
  • Reallocate more dedicated mental health beds to offer an improved level of care and to reduce the unnecessary use of acute care beds
  • Ensure that new school projects, modernizations, and modular classrooms are approved in a transparent and consistent way, and aligned with the priorities determined by school boards, not the Minister
  • Speed up completion of new schools and major projects and save money by improving the tendering and design process so that more builders are eligible
  • Empower local boards to find efficiencies by coordinating with developers and community facilities such as recreation centres and libraries
  • Clearly identify the knowledge and skills required for each grade level and entrust teachers to choose the method of instruction for their classrooms
  • Develop a consistent provincial grading standard with traditional letter or percentage grades for Grade 5-12 students and support the practice of teachers who give a grade of zero for incomplete work
  • Improve transparency concerning student results so parents have the information they need to make decisions regarding their child’s education
  • Eliminate mandatory school fees
  • Protect a parent’s right to choose what school their child attends (Public, Catholic, Francophone, Public Charter, Private, or Homeschool) and maintain the current model for school funding
  • Review funding and government supports to help schools be more sustainable in small communities
  • Recognize that meeting the needs of special needs students means improving the supports for their families and teachers
  • Ensure adequate funding follows each special needs student and is used in a way that best meets the individual needs of the child.
  • Facilitate students who would benefit from greater inclusion, but ensure adequate supervision and support is provided so the classroom is a healthy learning environment for everyone
  • Work with all partners to make sure that every child, regardless of gender, disability, race, religion, sexual orientation, appearance or any other characteristic, has a bully-free educational experience  Roll back the 30% Cabinet pay increase and the 8% increase for MLAs that were passed behind closed doors right after recent elections
  • End sole-sourced contracting and improve conflict of interest legislation to ensure contracts are awarded appropriately
  • Mandate that all travel expenses of elected officials and senior staff be fully and publicly disclosed in a detailed online report
  • Pass legislation to limit severance packages for all political staff and senior government and agency officials and make all severance agreements transparent
  • Strengthen the independent Offices of the Legislature such as the Auditor General, Ethics Commissioner, Chief Electoral Officer
  • Provide easier, fairer, and more affordable public access to Freedom of Information requests by reducing the grounds on which the government can withhold information and ensuring the Information and Privacy Commissioner has the tools she needs
  • Strengthen whistleblower legislation to protect all direct and indirect government employees or contractors who report unethical, wasteful, or other wrongful behavior
  • Implement full disclosure of all financial expenditures of public funds by all ministries and arms-length boards and agencies
  • Get big money out of politics by phasing out large corporate and union donations
  • Restore representative democracy by mandating all final votes in the Legislature be free and reported to the public
  • Pass legislation banning MLAs elected under one party from crossing to another without a byelection
  • Implement MLA recall legislation
  • Improve democracy in the Legislature by implementing reforms to the legislative process like opposition days and having all-party committees review and amend legislation
  • Legislate true fixed dates for provincial elections, the opening of legislative sessions, and the presentation of the budget and quarterly updates
  • Use more teleconferencing to reduce executive travel by 50%
  • Guarantee an open tendering and bidding process on all major government sanctioned and approved procurement and contracts to eliminate sole-source contract cronyism
  • Improve rural ambulance response times by decentralizing service delivery, and using non-emergency vehicles for transferring patients
  • Implement the Wildrose 10/10 MSI plan so rural municipalities are immune from the threats, promises, politics, and unpredictability of provincial politicians
  • Within the Wildrose 10/10 MSI plan, commit to doubling water and waste water funding for the next 5 years
  • Assemble and publish an online “Alberta Infrastructure Priority List”outlining the rationale and ranking of all capital projects across the province to ensure no parts of Alberta are being ignored for political reasons
  • Pass a motion to entrench the property rights of Albertans in the Canadian Constitution, guaranteeing all Albertans recourse to the courts against the government
  • Repeal Bill 24, the Carbon Capture and Storage Act
  • Amend Bill 36, the Land Stewardship Act, to protect individual property rights, provide checks on Cabinet’s central planning, and include more decisionmaking power for local authorities
  • Ensure that all road maintenance is done according to objective prioritization and that contractors are meeting all performance measures
  • Ensure that viability evaluations for hospitals and schools take into consideration the role of these institutions in rural communities
  • Provide more fairness and clarity to farmers and ranchers regarding their access to and use of land, water, and other private property
  • Amend the Alberta Energy Regulator’s legislation (Bill 2) to ensure Albertans’ rights to notification, hearing, and independent appeal are respected
  • Ensure that all energy extraction leaves the environment and individual property just as healthy and clean as it was before the activity

Alberta Liberal platform

  • Equal pay for work of equal value. Alberta Liberals will ensure better enforcement of the Human Rights Act, as well as enact proactive equal pay for work of equal value legislation.
  • Improve vaccination rates  Vaccines save lives, but Alberta’s vaccination rates are at an all-time low. Alberta Liberals will make it mandatory for all children to be vaccinated, unless their parents or legal guardians are willing to sign a document acknowledging the risks
  • Teaching consent: Include age-appropriate teaching of consent in all sexual health education.
  • Ensure families who require in vitro fertilization have reasonable and fair access to treatment.
  • Ensure justice is there for those who cannot afford it.
  • Institute stronger occupational health and safety standards – and ensure farm workers are covered by workers’ compensation.
  • With an Alberta Liberal government, school fees will be phased out.
  • Move toward all-day kindergarten and universal child care, which will help spur early childhood development and keep parents working.
  • Fully fund the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) and implement a process for fair and equitable distribution of industrial and linear tax revenue.
  • Support Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) policies on sustainable, predictable, and adequate funding to build and maintain Alberta cities and towns.
  • Invest in CTrain and LRT expansion, as well as create Big City Charters for Calgary and Edmonton.
  • Lower surgery and emergency room wait times and improve access to primary care by investing in collaborative multidisciplinary teams.
  • Invest in mental health and addictions with early intervention, treatment, and rehabilitation.
  • Reduce medical administrative costs and prioritize resources where they are needed most – on the front lines.
  • Double funding for senior supports so that they can stay in their homes.
  • Change the current property tax rebate loan back into a tax grant, which means more money in their pockets.
  • Create more long-term care beds to free up hospital bed space
  • Lower surgery and emergency room wait times and improve access to primary care by investing in collaborative multidisciplinary teams.
  • Invest in mental health and addictions with early intervention, treatment, and rehabilitation.
  • Double funding for senior supports so that they can stay in their homes.
  • Eliminate taxes on small corporations, which are often family owned.
  • We will invest in a small business start-up fund and provide support for entrepreneurs.
  • We will put a price on actual carbon emissions and phase out coal fired power plants by 2025.
  • Phase out fresh water use for deep well injections
  • Introduce a progressive personal income tax system – 9.5 per cent on the first $50,000 of taxable income, 10 per cent on the next $50,000, 10.5 per cent on the next 50,000, 12.5 per cent on the next $100,000, 15 per cent on the amount over $250,000.
  • Adjust the corporate tax rate by 2 per cent.
  • Elimination of small business taxes.

Alberta NDP platform

  • A job creation tax credit: We’ll introduce a Job Creator’s Tax Credit to directly and effectively help Alberta businesses who invest to create new jobs.
  • Review of how Alberta will promote resource processing and fair royalties. Through these policies, we’ll implement competitive, realistic royalty rates as prices rise, to ensure full and fair value for Albertans as the owners of the resources.
  • We’ll ensure the benefits of better economic policies are more widely shared, by increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2018.
  • We will ban both corporate and union donations to political parties.
  • We will ensure a stable and secure budget for health care services. We will reverse the reckless Prentice cuts to front line health services and ensure stable, predictable funding for acute care in our hospitals, so that you and your family get proper, timely care.
  • We will eliminate the PCs’ proposed health care levy, replacing it with a more progressive income tax for the top 10% of tax filers in Alberta, and fairer corporate taxes.
  • We will shorten emergency room waiting times by creating 2,000 public long-term care beds over four years, which will improve seniors care and reduce hospital congestion.
  • We will phase in a new model for expanded public homecare which will enhance and stabilize the system by directing care to where individuals need it, helping to keep people at home instead of in hospitals.
  • We will eliminate Alberta’s growing health infrastructure backlog by properly repairing hospitals and seniors’ facilities and constructing the new facilities needed for proper health care, including immediate action on the most pressing deferred maintenance needs.
  • We will implement a mental health strategy that modernizes the current broken system to properly deliver badly needed mental health services to Albertans, which will also help reduce hospital congestion.
  • We’ll provide stable, predictable funding to school boards, colleges, universities and technical institutes that will support Alberta’s growing population and the need for quality education in a modern economy. We will reverse the reckless Prentice cuts.
  • We’ll invest to reduce class sizes and deal with growing enrollment in the K-12 system.
  • We’ll reduce school fees for essential services such as lunch supervision and bussing.
  • We’ll invest to build the new schools that are needed to lower class sizes, to improve learning conditions for all Alberta kids and to end the chaos created by the PCs continual delays in building those new schools
  • We’ll phase in all-day kindergarten as Alberta’s finances permit and school construction progresses, beginning with priority neighbourhoods.
  • We’ll get the politics out of school construction, ensuring that school construction and renovation decisions are based on need. We’ll end the PCs’ political manipulations of those decisions with public, transparent project priority lists.
  • We’ll phase in a targeted school lunch program for elementary students in the province.
  • We’ll restore the successful Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP) job creation program for Alberta youth.
  • And we’ll implement a real tuition freeze for post-secondary students, including rolling back the PCs’ most recent “market modifier” fees.
  • We will invest in child care, creating new spaces and improving affordability, quality and access. We will move toward $25-a-day care in quality child care centres as Alberta’s finances permit.
  • We will immediately implement enhancements to the Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit and the Alberta Working Family Supplement so low income families do not have to wait more than a year to benefit. We will also adjust the Supplement to ensure all low income families can access it.
  • We will create a Women’s Ministry to lead initiatives for greater gender equality in Alberta.
  • We will review employment standards to support family-friendly work standards, including improving compassionate care leaves and providing time off for family responsibilities.
  • We will properly and effectively “smart regulate” Alberta’s electricity retail system to give Alberta families more stable
  • We will reverse the cuts made to services for children in care to ensure that our most vulnerable children receive the support and services they need. We will also implement reforms to the child intervention system to make sure that when tragedies do occur they are properly investigated so we can prevent the same thing from happening again.
  • We will increase funding to Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) to enhance important community based services and programs.
  • And we will create more spaces in women’s shelters province wide, and increase support for organizations taking initiatives to end violence against women and within families. Strong families, strong communities, healthy environment.
  • We will establish a green retrofitting loan program that will assist Alberta families, farms and small businesses to reduce their energy usage affordably, which will reduce environmental impacts and create jobs in the construction industry.
  • We will phase out coal-fired electricity generation to reduce smog and greenhouse gas emissions and expand cleaner, greener sources, including wind and solar and more industrial cogeneration in the oil sands, all of which will improve both the environment and the health of Albertans.
  • We will end the PCs’ costly and ineffective Carbon Capture and Storage experiment and reinvest the 2015/16 component of this project into construction of public transit, which will help reduce families’ transportation costs and reduce greenhouse gases and other air pollutants.
  • We will strengthen environmental standards, inspection, monitoring and enforcement to protect Alberta’s water, land and air. We will build standards based on independent science and international best practices, designed transparently in careful consultation with Albertans.
  • We will take leadership on the issue of climate change and make sure Alberta is part of crafting solutions with stakeholders, other provinces and the federal government. First steps will include an energy efficiency strategy and a renewable energy strategy.
  • We will ban gas drilling in urban areas.
  • We will support a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, which will have at its centre Indigenous women and the families of the missing and murdered women.
  • We will work with the federal government to ensure jurisdictional conflicts do not prevent children from receiving services they need.
  • We will work with the federal government to ensure Indigenous communities have reliable access to clean and safe drinking water.
  • We will improve the representation of Indigenous culture and history in Alberta’s school curriculum in consultation with Indigenous leaders and Elders, and improve availability of First Nations language programs.
  • We will repeal Bill 22, which was passed without consulting First Nation groups and imposes requirements on First Nations Bands not required of other business arrangements. We will work collaboratively and respectfully with our province’s First Nations to replace this legislation.
  • We will conduct a review of federal rail and transportation policies, and their effect on Alberta’s agricultural food producers, and advocate for reliable, sufficient, and fairly priced rail service to markets.
  • Large profitable corporations will contribute a little more. We will cut the PCs’ wasteful corporate tax breaks, by increasing Alberta corporate tax to 12% (from 10%), retaining the current small business tax rate and no sales tax.
  • 12% on taxable income over $125,000 to $150,000; 13% on taxable income over $150,000 to $200,000; 14% on taxable income over $200,000 to $300,000; and 15% on taxable income over $300,000.
  • We will eliminate Mr. Prentice’s regressive health levy, saving working and middle class Alberta families up to $1000 a year per tax filer.
  • And we will roll back Mr. Prentice’s new user fees that affect Alberta families the most, including motor vehicle registration, marriage, death and birth certificates and their 600% increase to the mortgage registration tax that will make buying a new home much more difficult.
  • Low income families will also benefit from our proposals regarding the Alberta Working Family Supplement and the Alberta Family Employment Tax credit
  • We will reverse the PCs’ cuts to the charitable donation tax credit.
  • We will balance the budget in 2018.

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Swann’s Strategic Mistake

Even though the Alberta Liberals couldn’t muster candidates to run in 31 constituencies in the provincial election, they decided to run a candidate in Calgary Elbow against Alberta Party leader Greg Clark. In the very short term, it would seem to benefit the Alberta Liberals if Clark was to lose and essentially devastate the Alberta Party’s hope for success. I simply don’t believe that this is the case.

dont-cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face

The Alberta Liberals have no chance of winning Calgary Elbow. Since they won the riding in a 2007 by-election, the Alberta Liberals have seen their fortunes drop in the riding substantially. In 2012, they garnered only 5.5% of the vote in the riding. In last year’s by-election, the Alberta Liberals ran a solid campaign with a strong candidate in Susan Wright but could only gain 12% of the vote. When they are nominating a candidate just over a week after writ drop, at best, the Alberta Liberals can hope to play the spoiler in the race. So one has to ask: Who’s chances are they planning to spoil?

The Alberta Party has not gained any substantial traction in any election except the Calgary Elbow by-election where Clark came within 7 percent of winning PC candidate Gordon Dirks. This is their rematch and, for the Alberta Party, they are all in on this race. They need to prove that they can win.

As I mentioned, it appears that the Liberals would benefit from dashing the Alberta Party’s hopes of electing an MLA. Here are the reasons why I don’t believe this to be the case:

  • An ideological polarization of Albertans. The polls are showing that the Alberta electorate is becoming more ideologically polarized between the Wildrose and the Alberta NDP, the Alberta Liberals need to keep the ideological centre alive.
  • Keeps a lifeline to grow momentum. The Alberta Liberals look as if they could be reduced to two seats in the upcoming election – Swann’s and Blakeman’s. They will be desperate to show that they have some form of momentum. If, after the election, they can merge with another party that has established some success, it could provide a much needed lifeline to the Liberals going into the next election (which could be soon…if there is a minority government). Merging with a dead party doesn’t show much momentum.
  • No guarantee that former Alberta Party supporters will ever vote Liberal. There is significant animosity between the supporters of the Alberta Party and those of the Alberta Liberals. Throwing a spoiler candidate into a race with the Alberta Party leader has done nothing to help alleviate that animosity. Many of the young supporters of the Alberta Party are just as likely to consider the Alberta NDP, Greens, or not voting at all as they are to vote Alberta Liberal – especially now. The upper echelon of the party is more conservative and could easily move to the PCs.
  • Alienates Laurie Blakeman. There are two candidates who have been “nominated” by multiple parties. The most important is Laurie Blakeman who has been nominated by the Liberals, Greens, and the Alberta Party. She has been one of their most effective MLAs in many years and has worked to try to bring the Alberta Liberals and Alberta Party together. Assuming she is elected, she may choose to sit as an Alberta Party MLA which would likely devastate the Alberta Liberals.
  • Greg Clark could win even with the Alberta Liberal candidate running. The Alberta Liberals could have saved face if they didn’t run against Clark. On election day, they are going to do poorly in the riding and it would be especially embarrassing if Clark wins even with the Liberal in the race. It would allow the Alberta Party to declare that they are the centrist party that is on the move.

The Alberta Liberals made a short sighted decision – they have chosen to cut their nose off to spite their face.  With the Alberta Liberals teetering on the edge of political extinction, they simply can’t afford to make these types of mistakes.

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Recap – Week #1 of Alberta Provincial Election Campaign

Any election campaign is a marathon and not a sprint and the PCs and Alberta Liberals are grateful for that. If the election was held tomorrow, the PCs would be in opposition and the Liberals would be even deeper in political oblivion than they were before the campaign.Shoot-yourself-in-the-foot

The PCs continued to demonstrate their affinity for shooting themselves in the foot. Jim Prentice got the campaign started on an ignominious note when he painted the opposition as “extremist”. Not usually a good way to appeal to the hearts and minds of those who may have supported those parties in the past…especially considering the Wildrose is made up of former PCs and many NDP sympathizers saved the Tories’ bacon in the 2012 provincial election.

The Tories had several embarrassing nomination contests and the lingering consequences of those contests has only compounded the party’s bad start. Former PC nomination candidate Don Martin launched a lawsuit against the party because of the allegations of bribery that were thrown around during the nomination campaign.

Jamie Lall, disqualified PC candidate in Chestermere-Rockyview, announced that he would run as an “Independent Conservative”. Lall could potentially peel away thousands of PC votes and help hand defector Bruce McAllister’s seat back to the Wildrose.

The PCs have tied their party’s fortunes onto their budget. Prentice has called this election a “referendum” on how to deal with the collapse of the price of oil. Unfortunately for Prentice, the budget has proven to be a dud – not surprising considering it is basically a series of tax increases and spending cuts. It is basically asking Albertans to vote to give away thousands of dollars of their money a year to receive less service from their government. Who wouldn’t want that?

The first polls that came out during the campaign did little to assuage the concerns of PC activists. Stunningly, it showed the PCs not in first but in a battle for second – behind the Wildrose and competing with the surging NDP with the Liberals trailing far behind.

For the PCs, these polling numbers have to be a wake up call. Obviously trailing behind the Wildrose is a problem but even worse, they won’t be able to make a legitimate appeal to progressive voters to say that they are the only party that can defeat them.

The Wildrose must be ecstatic about the polls. They just can’t really talk about them. Every time Albertans think about the possibility of a Wildrose government, the Wildrose seems to take a hit in the polls. They need to continue run a quiet campaign and let Prentice continue to submarine his own fortunes.

The NDP is on the verge of a massive Alberta breakthrough. Under Rachel Notley, they have taken a comfortable lead in Edmonton and have grown leaps and bounds elsewhere. Unlike the Wildrose, the NDP has to trumpet the poll numbers. They need every single progressive Albertan to know that they are the only progressive option that can stop the Wildrose.

The NDP faces a few challenges to continue building their momentum. As their numbers surge, they’ll become a target for other parties. Prentice has already started taking shots at the NDP and Alberta Liberal leader David Swann criticized the NDP’s economic policies as “socialism”. Their effectiveness at deflecting these attacks will play a big role in determining if they will ride an orange wave like Jack Layton’s federal NDP in 2011 or if they will fade away like Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats in the UK. The NDP also does not have nearly the financial resources that the PCs and Wildrose have at their disposal. Progressive voters should be opening their wallets at this very moment to throw money at the party if they want to see this breakthrough happen.

The Alberta Liberals have had a terrible week. They seem to be an afterthought in the media and the polls could not have been worse for them. They cannot appeal to progressive voters as a legitimate option to defeat Tories. They cannot appeal to PC voters as a legitimate option to defeat the NDP or the Wildrose. These poll numbers turn Liberal voters into the swing voters that both the NDP and PCs will be appealing to. By election day the only voters that could be left for the Alberta Liberals could be the absolute diehard core Liberal voters (and there aren’t very many of them). Unfortunately for those voters, there is little chance that there will be a Liberal candidate in every constituency. They have currently nominated just over 30 candidates across the province. This means that at least 55 constituencies have had no “on the ground” Liberal activity at this point.

It is a mistake for anyone to underestimate the PCs. In Alberta politics these days, three weeks is an eternity. The PCs have previously made Houdini-like escapes under Stelmach and Redford. The debates are still to come and with an unproven Wildrose leader, there is always a possibility that the PCs can figure out a way to get out of the hole that they’ve dug for themselves.

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Alberta Oil and Gas Glossary

Photo by Stuart Miles
Photo by Stuart Miles

Alberta Energy Regulator (AER): Created by the Responsible Energy Development Act (Bill 2) that was enacted in 2013. Replaced the responsibilities of the ERCB and brought in responsibilities for granting surface leases and the approval of environment impact statements over land, air, and water impacts for energy resource projects from the Alberta Environmental and Sustainable Resource Development ministry. Goal was to provide a streamlined process to for resource development projects. Controversy: first appointed AER chairman was Gerry Protti who was President of Encana and founding president of the oil sands lobby group Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Bitumen: the raw, viscous product of oil sands extraction. There are two main ways to extract bitumen – Mining and In Situ.

Bitumen is mined when it is at a shallow depth and it produces tailing ponds which contains the residue after the bitumen has been separated from the sand. Tailing ponds include toxic chemicals including naphthenic acids, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, phenolic compounds, ammonia, and mercury. In Situ extraction is used when bitumen is deeper in the ground and involves using steam remove the bitumen. It uses less water and does not produce tailing ponds. However, it requires substantially more energy and as such, produces significantly more greenhouse gas emissions.

Bitumen requires upgrading to be converted into synthetic crude oil. As of 2014, there are five upgraders in Alberta. Once upgraded into synthetic crude oil, it can be refined into oil products such as gasoline.

Bitumen Bubble: In 2013, Premier Alison Redford and Finance Minister Doug Horner used the term “Bitumen Bubble” to explain the budget deficit. The term was used to describe the difference in price between West Texas Intermediate crude oil and Western Canadian Select. This price gap was blamed on the fact that Alberta is a landlocked producer that lacks refining capacity and as such had a glut of crude that it couldn’t move. As such, Alberta oil producers were receiving less per barrel of crude than producers elsewhere. This price gap has narrowed substantially since 2013.

Bitumen Royalties In-Kind (BRIK): Created in 2009, the program gives oil sands producers two choices when it comes to paying the royalties on their product – 1) remit a cash payment, 2) pay the government with a bitumen royalty valued at the same price based on Western Canadian Select in lieu of payment.

Conventional Oil & Gas Royalties: in Alberta, conventional crude oil has a maximum royalty of 40% and natural gas pays as a maximum royalty of 36%. Under Ed Stelmach, they increased the royalties on oil and gas in 2007 and then rolled them back to the current rates in 2010.

Diluted Bitumen (Dilbit): Due to the viscosity of bitumen, it needs to be mixed with a diluent such as naptha. This allows it to be transported via pipeline. However, it is still more viscous than other forms of heavy crude oil and needs to be heated. This heat may promote corrosion and could increase possibility of leaks/spills.

Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB): An independent provincial agency led by eight board members whose main function was to ensure that resource development projects were handled in the interests of the people of Alberta.   ERCB was made up of hundreds of geologists, engineers, and technicians who provided regulation and adjudication over disputes throughout the development process. Abolished by the Responsible Energy Development Act that came into effect in 2013 as it was succeeded by the Alberta Energy Regulator.

Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD): Alberta Government ministry responsible for enforcing environmental regulations under the Public Lands Act, Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act and Water Act. After the creation of the AER, they are responsible for non-energy related resource development projects.

Keystone XL Pipeline: pipeline proposed by Trans-Canada in 2008 that would direct diluted bitumen and crude oil from Hardisty, AB through southwest Saskatchewan through Montana, Nebraska and other states to refineries in Illinois and Texas.

It has received support from the Alberta provincial government, Canada’s federal government, and the Republican Congress. However, passage of the American approval has been held up in environmental studies within the State Department and President Obama has vowed to veto and has vetoed any bills related to the pipeline until the studies are completed.

Keystone XL is controversial in several ways: 1) fears of spills/toxic contamination into environmentally sensitive areas including the Ogallala aquifer which is a major source of water for the mid west states, 2) it crosses hundreds of sacred aboriginal sites, 3) it transfers and promotes the usage of Alberta oil sands bitumen which has such a thick viscosity that it releases substantially higher carbon emissions and can leave behind toxic tailing ponds during production, 4) it ships unrefined Canadian bitumen to the US where American jobs would be used to upgrade it and then Canadians would have to buy back the refined product.

Supporters argue that 1) it will create short-term jobs building the pipeline, 2) that it will impact the price of gas due to increased supply, 3) give the United States greater access to an “ethical” supplier of crude oil, 4) it will allow a glut of bitumen to get to refineries so that Albertans can reap financial benefits from our resources.

Northern Gateway pipeline: a pipeline proposed by Enbridge that would direct diluted bitumen from Bruderheim, Alberta to Kitimat in northern BC. This would then be transported to Asia via oil tankers. It has received approval from regulatory boards but there were hundreds of conditions attached to the approval.

Like Keystone XL it is controversial in several ways: 1) fears of spills/toxic contamination into environmentally sensitive areas including through the Great Bear rainforest, 2) it crosses hundreds of aboriginal territorial lands, 3) it transfers and promotes the usage of Alberta oil sands bitumen which has such a thick viscosity that it releases substantially higher carbon emissions and can leave behind toxic tailing ponds during production, 4) massive oil tankers will be transporting oil through the Hecate Strait (considered to be a dangerous body of water due to violent storms and waves) without confidence that there is a good way to handle an oil spill in the area.

Oil Sands Royalties: In Alberta, royalties based on whether or not they have reached pay out (their revenue exceeds their capital costs). If they have not reached pay out, they pay between 1-9% of their gross revenues of the barrels of bitumen sold. The percentage of royalties depends on the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) price of a barrel of oil but the royalty percentage is paid on the value of the Western Canadian Select (WCS) which is the value of the bitumen in Alberta. If they have reached payout, they pay between 25-40% royalties on the net revenue of the barrels of bitumen sold. The exact percentage of royalty depends on the value of the West Texas Intermediate and is applied to the WCS price of bitumen minus the operating and sustaining costs of production.

Western Canadian Select price: the price of the heavy crude oil produced in Alberta largely composed of bitumen and diluents. The royalty that oil sand producers is applied to the WCS.

West Texas Intermediate price: the benchmark price of light sweet crude oil. This price determines the royalty percentage that oil sands producers pay.  

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Things to Watch for Each Party in Alberta Election

For a province that has elected the same party for 44 consecutive years, Alberta’s politics are hardly boring (at least right now!). Going into this campaign, every single major political party in Alberta has a leader who has never led them into an election before. Anything can happen but much depends on how the following questions are answered.

Progressive Conservatives

  • Can Jim Prentice sell an unpopular budget?

The budget is a combination of tax increases, user fees, and spending cuts. The PCs didn’t make too many friends with this budget and it is not the kind of budget that generally catapults a party into government.

  • Will Prentice avoid causing self-inflicted injuries?

Prentice started out his time as Premier by picking “low-hanging fruit” – getting rid of government jet, shutting down the license plate design contest, kept Michener Centre – all “easy wins” for the PCs (as the BC Liberals would call them). Since then Prentice has made several ham handed comments and decisions – Bill 10, #PrenticeBlamesAlbertans, candidate appointments/nomination irregularities – that have given many people second thoughts about how skilled Prentice really is as a politician.

  • Can the PCs beat back the NDP in Edmonton?

The PCs have built a solid urban base in Calgary and Edmonton. The NDP has recently surged to take the lead in Edmonton which has put several of their seats in jeopardy.

Wildrose Party

  • How will Brian Jean handle the pressure of a campaign?

Just a week after being elected leader of the Wildrose, Brian Jean is being thrown into a campaign. Jean is new to provincial politics and it will be interesting to see his grasp on the issues and how he will handle the constant spotlight of a campaign.

  • Will Jean win his riding?

He has taken a big risk by running against Advanced Education Minister Don Scott in Fort McMurray-Conklin rather than in the neighbouring Fort McMurray riding where he’d be facing scandal plagued MLA Mike Allen. The risk would pay off big if he wins but a loss could destroy a fragile party that is  still recovering from defections of Danielle Smith and other key caucus members.

  • Will the candidates running under the Wildrose brand be able to challenge the defecting MLAs?

The Wildrose is depending on voters who are angry with the defecting MLAs showing up to the voting station. The question is: Will voters still be angry on election day or will the power of incumbency win out?

  • Will the Wildrose be able to breakthrough in urban ridings or will they double down in rural Alberta?

The thorn in the Wildrose side has been their inability to gain traction in Calgary or Edmonton. Will they be able to spend the significant resources that it will take to break through in those centres or will they focus their efforts on consolidating their base in rural Alberta.

Alberta Liberals

  • Will the Liberals be able to hold Calgary Buffalo and Calgary North East?

Kent Hehr and Darshan Kang are exiting the provincial scene to run federally. They were able to hold their seats largely due to their own popularity and organization skills. The Alberta Liberals need to keep their foothold in Calgary.

  • How will Raj Sherman manage the campaign?

Sherman’s reign as leader of the Liberals proved to be full of questionable strategic decisions and he has now been tasked to manage the Alberta Liberal campaign.

  • Will David Swann’s voice be lost in the campaign?

David Swann is not the loudest or dynamic leader of the group. With Rachel Notley on his left and Jim Prentice on his right, Swann will need to keep relevant.

Alberta’s NDP

  • Can the Alberta NDP turn their high poll numbers into votes?

The NDP has to turn their improved polling numbers into votes. They have to keep people from parking their votes with them and then showing up to vote for someone else on election day.

  • Will they win in Lethbridge West?

Shannon Phillips has been running a campaign since the end of the 2012 election campaign. The Wildrose may not be as strong as they were in 2012. This is a double edged sword for candidates like Phillips. She’ll benefit from progressives running into the arms of the PCs because they are afraid of the Wildrose. The downside is that a lack of a right wing split could mean a higher threshold for victory to beat the PC candidate.

  • Can they break through in Calgary?

Former city councillor Joe Ceci is a great pick-up as a candidate for the party in Calgary-Fort. The PCs appear to be disorganized in the riding and there is no incumbent MLA. The NDP has struggled in Calgary mightily since the mid-80s and need to establish a base in the city before they can be seen as a threat for government.

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Do Campaigns Have to be Dirty to be Successful?

Pretty much everyone has seen or knows about the Netflix hit show House of Cards. Frank Underwood is the kind of politician who would do anything to get what he wants –  lie, cheat, break laws, rewrite the rule book…there is no limit to the distance he will go. For many people, when they think of politics and those involved in it, they think of people like Underwood.

Thankfully, House of Cards is a dramatization and not a documentary. However, real life politics can get pretty dirty too.

Why?

There are a few reasons:

  • Politics can be a high pressure game with lots of money involved. The pressure from donors and supporters can push people in the wrong direction.
  • There are generally no consolation prizes for second place in Canadian/American politics. If you finish in 2nd place, you get nothing….so some candidates will do whatever it takes to avoid that from happening.
  • Some candidates convince themselves that the issues that they are believe about are so important that they can justify bending or breaking rules so that they can get elected to fight for their issues in Parliament/Legislature/Senate/House.
  • Candidates are placed in a bit of a Prisoner’s Dilemma. If their opponents stretch the rules while they don’t stretch the rules themselves, they can be at a distinct disadvantage.
  • The aura of power can attract people who may not necessarily be in politics for the best reasons. However, I believe that the overwhelming majority of people who enter politics are doing so out of principle rather than the sheer pursuit of power and self-promotion.
  • Party/ideological loyalty has created environments where political opponents are seen as the enemy rather than someone with a different (and legitimate) point of view.
  • Overzealous or unscrupulous campaign staff/volunteers can take unsanctioned actions.

What kinds of dirty tricks can happen throughout a campaign?

Dirty tricks are campaign short cuts. They are for lazy, desperate campaigns that have so little to offer that they have to bend/break rules to have success. Here are a sample of dirty tricks that we’ve seen in the past:

Is it dirty to run a “negative campaign”?

A negative campaign is one that focuses on differences in policy and legislative mistakes. As long as the debate is focused solely on policy, it is not dirty. As soon as it veers into the personal, it becomes dirty. Negative campaigns are not dirty but exclusively negative campaigns are not usually successful either. A campaign built solely around the policy shortcomings of the opposition isn’t a particularly inspiring message. Pointing out your disagreements with the opposition is ok but you have to explain what you, if elected, would do/have done differently and how your actions would make the lives of your voters better than it was before.

Why do clean campaigns matter?

Politics and politicians, in general, are not exactly held in high esteem by most people. In 2014, Darth Vader polled higher among Americans than all high ranking current American politicians. changeAntipathy and apathy are competing to be the predominant feeling towards politics. People were inspired by Obama’s message of change in 2008. Why? Because politics should be bigger than what they have become. Politics are debased by the actions of politicians who put power ahead of principle. Politicians are supposed to be representative of their constituents but people often don’t see themselves being well-represented in the behaviour of their political representation.

Every candidate who runs a campaign that sees rules and ethics as an impediment to success further cements the average person’s negative view about politics.

How can a campaign stay clean?

It has to start from the top down. The candidate needs to have an unwavering belief in the importance of running a clean campaign. There is no grey area – you will face significant challenges through the campaign that may tempt you to compromise your commitment to it.

A candidate has to be absolutely explicit with every single person on their team that dirty tricks are not absolutely forbidden on the campaign. The candidate needs complete buy-in from their Campaign Manager that they will run a clean campaign and that “wink wink, nudge nudges” and “plausible deniability” is not accepted on the campaign.

What if my opponents are running a dirty campaign?

Congratulations! Candidates generally run dirty campaigns when they are desperate and/or feel threatened. You are getting traction on your campaign. Be proud.

You can only control your campaign; you cannot control the actions of the other campaigns that are in the race. Dirty tactics are just as likely to blow up in the face of the campaign that is making them. Politics is not a zero sum game. When one candidate damages the prospects another candidate, there is no guarantee that it will end bad actor. It is just as likely turn off voters from considering the bad actor at all. In the end, nothing is more effective against a dirty campaign than a squeaky clean campaign.

Getting in the mud with the other campaigns only proves that you are no better than they are. Do the exact opposite of that: Respond by working even harder, by inspiring more voters, by being more creative, by building a better Get Out The Vote effort, by generally running a better campaign.

Do clean campaigns always win?

Sadly, no. If they did, there would be no such thing as a dirty campaign. Dirty campaigns don’t always win either.

By running a clean campaign, you can guarantee that you can give yourself is win or lose, that when the campaign is over, you never compromised your integrity as a person.

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