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CALGARY, ALBERTA, CANADA
***UPDATED DAILY (IF THE EDITOR IS ON THE WAGON)***

Friday, November 19, 2004

The Alberta Election - It's all about Opposition, Stupid

What's the best-kept secret issue of the November 22 Alberta Election Campaign?

It looks like Alberta's main opposition Liberal Party slapped together a "round table" of high party pooh-bahs, hired somebody's brother-in-law as a touchy-feely "facilitator" fully equipped with white boards, flip charts and stickums. It looks like the facilitator let everyone choose one favourite issue. It looks like the whole bunch of them then slapped the issues together in a gooey, fatigue-inducing, murky mass. Liberal Leader Professor Kevin Taft, closed his eyes, stuck his hand in the goo and pulled out one issue each day. Professor Taft never favoured one issue over another - to the good professor, all issues are equal - it wouldn't be fair, it wouldn't be polite to favour one pooh-bah over another - it would be outright judgemental. Out of the goo, Taft pulled:

  • Makeover Mount Royal College into Mount Royal University - probably Professor Taft's favourite issue. Right at the start, the makeover will cost $15 million and, each year after that, running Mount Royal University will cost $7 million more than running Mount Royal College. Many able students can't go to college - they can't afford to pay college fees. Professor Taft couldn't find a worse issue. And Mount Royal has just fouled it's nest - it secretly paid some of its spin doctors and bureaucrats $50,000 bonuses and obscene salary increases.
  • Commit 5% of annual budget surplus to an endowment fund for the humanities, social sciences and art ... " 95% of Albertans don't know what an "endowment fund" is and care not a whit about the humanities, social sciences and art - Prof, at election time pay attention to politics not arts funding.
  • Create a provincial smoking reduction strategy but not a province-wide smoking ban - how mealy mouthed can you get?
Mixed up in all this goo, buried deep in the morass, were the following good ideas:
  • Give local governments real powers by changing the Alberta Act (Alberta's Constitution)
  • Stop making Albertans pay health care premiums
  • Provide water, roads and land for new meat-packing plants
  • Put 35% of annual budget surpluses in a fund for universities
  • and, buried and obscured right in the middle of the morass - Initiate democratic reform with fixed election dates

Guess what though, Prof, in Alberta bars and coffee rows and around Alberta water coolers, all these promises mean absolutely nothing. If they think they risk electing a Liberal government, most people won't vote for you. You're a Liberal, Prof, you're of the Party of Trudeau, and of the Party of Chretien and of the Party of the National Energy Program. Outside Calgary and Edmonton the Alberta Alliance Party is more popular than you Liberals are. So all the policies and issues you've pulled out of your round table are totally beside the point.

The NDP, the party that would kill the Goose that laid the Golden Egg, wants to raise oil and gas royalties. Enough said, voters have seen how the NDP killed the Goose in B.C. and Saskatchewan, how tens of thousands lost jobs and how clouds of despair shrouded both provinces. Even in Edmonton, the NDP ranks third; in Calgary, lots more people support the Green Party than support the NDP; in the rest of Alberta, twice as many people support the Alliance as support the NDP. Anything the NDP promises to do is totally beside the point.

Should the Liberals and the NDP just roll over and die? No. Our esteemed reporter, the Old Timer from Pincher Creek hangs around bars and coffee rows and water coolers all over the province. Here's what the Old Timer is hearing:

  1. Former nice-guy chump premier Ralph Klein has become "an ..." - we still can't use the word a lot of the folks use ... anyway Martha and Henry and Solomon Grundy think Ralph's become arrogant:
    • One cold winter night three years ago he, verbally beat; verbally kicked and verbally urinated upon all of the unfortunates (there but for the grace of God, went him) huddled into an Edmonton homeless shelter for the night.
    • Last spring when Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman asked him to produce receipts to support his expense account, Ralph tried to, verbally, shove and bully his way out of producing the receipts.
    • He stormed out of a public health care meeting with Prime Minister Paul Martin and all the other Premiers in September and headed over to an Ottawa Casino to play the night away - actually the health care meeting was being broadcast on TV and Klein was dodging the TV cameras - the Prime Minister and other Premiers would have shown him up for what he is - a dunce - on TV (see The Emperor has no clothes?).
    • He threatened another set of disabled people (30,000 of them) with cutting off their $850 per month government subsistence payments if they criticized him.
    • In a televised debate with Taft and NDP leader Brian Mason on November 8, he avoided eye contact; hunkered down on a dunce's stool; chewed candies; refused to deal with issues and bragged as to how he was more popular than they were.
    • He refused to tell Albertans what he planned for health care.
    • He refused to share with Albertans the amount of Alberta's current budget surplus.
    • He is surrounded by body guards and spin doctors and he hides away in private rooms ordinary Albertans can't enter
  2. The Old Timer estimates that a big percentage of the Albertans he talked to want to know more about what's going on:
    • 81% believe that the Tory government has a hidden health care agenda.
    • According to the Tories own public opinion polls (paid for by Alberta taxpayers) most Albertans want government auto insurance if it will lower their insurance premiums - the Tories have turned a blind ear to Alberta taxpayers and won't release the public opinion polls.
    • The Tories have taken away the power of local people to elect their own health boards and have fired health board staff who disagree with them.
    • Alberta is the wealthiest province in Canada but Albertans have to pay extra fees to educate their children in Alberta's schools - the Tories won't discuss the matter.

"Well," the Old Timer, has asked the people he meets in bars and coffee rows and around water coolers up and down the roads of Alberta, "are you saying Ralph has gone beyond his Expiry Date?"

"Yeah, we'll have to agree on that," say 95% of them. "But Ralph's retiring right after the election. And the Tory Party - why quarrel with success. If Ralph's leaving, we'll still vote Tory."

"Well, how about a stronger opposition?" asks the Old Timer.

"Yeah, that's what we need. Ralph would have stayed a nice guy if he'd had a stronger opposition," answer the 95%.

A few weeks ago, to help with their election campaign, the Alberta Alliance Party brought in a gang of right wing nightriders (aka election strategists) called Campaign Secrets Inc. from the U.S. In an instant, Mark Montini, Campaign Secret's president spotted the issue that will draw blood and plenty of it - A Stronger Opposition.

Properly exploited, the issue of Stronger Opposition could produce a minority government - that's about as far as the opposition parties could go. But a minority government would destroy Ralph Klein - unprotected by a majority government, Ralph simply doesn't have the mental ability to withstand the questions and taunts and challenges of the opposition parties in the legislature. A minority government would likely destroy the Tory party itself by exposing its rotten underside - legislative committees, no longer controlled by the Tories, would soon drag out of the sewers of Ralph's World the Big Mike Lobsingers, the meat packers, the health care mongers, the utility company peccadilloes, and on and on.

The Liberals should have focused the campaign on only one issue - Stronger Opposition. The Liberals and the NDP should have planned a "strategic voting campaign". Here's how it would work:

  • In Edmonton and Calgary and small city seats -
    • if the Liberals are strong in a seat, get NDP voters to vote Liberal
    • if the NDP are strong, get Liberal voters to vote NDP.
  • In most rural seats, get voters to vote Alliance - the Alliance will never move into the cities any way.
And the Opposition should have pushed fixed election dates (the Liberals did raise the issue of fixed election dates but buried and obscured in all the goo) and a system of checks and balances built right into Alberta's Constitution.

But, of course, the Liberals were too busy having meetings and working with facilitators and being polite. And the NDP were too busy planning how to kill the Golden Goose. Is all lost? It would be if it weren't for Ralph the Chump. On Tuesday the now unpopular Klein, grabbed a reporter's notebook and wrote the following pledge in it:

"I will stay three-and-three-quarters years [after the election]
................. Ralph"

And overheard in the bars and on coffee rows and around the water cooler:

"Well, now, dammit, he's not leaving. We sure do need a stronger opposition."

Ralph may have yukkered himself one too many times.


Big Mike Lobsinger

In 1995 Rod Love, Klein's Dr. Frankenstein, introduced Ralph and Colleen Klein to Mike Lobsinger, a shady hustler out of Grant Devine's corrupt Saskatchewan regime. Lobsinger issued Colleen shares in Lobsinger's public company, Multi-Corp. Colleen paid nothing. Colleen stood to make a lot of money out of the transaction but the public unearthed the scam. Colleen had to give up her shares and, when all was said and done, neither Klein nor Colleen was any more financially secure. Lobsinger raised a lot of money on the Klein connection and still hangs around Calgary and remains, to this day, Chairman of Multi-Corp. (renamed it "Zi Corp"). Despite consistent and large losses, Zi Corp's shares continue to trade on the NASDQ stock exchange. Somehow or other, someone has kept the shares up.



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