Saturday, December 16, 2006

Don't have a Cao, Man

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Stelmach Cabinet leaves out Christmas Card Cao!

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Alberta Insider's (late) Saturday Spread

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As a relatively new (and as yet, not very regular) feature on Alberta's fastest growing political blog, the Alberta Report's exclusive Balzacian Insider will recap the past week of gossip, rumours, lies and damn lies in the heady world of Alberta political affairs.

BALZAC - You didn't have to be in Cardston to hear the Morton train comin' off the rails over the weekend, or the gasps of incredulity coming from Dinning mouths.

Albertans now have their first-ever Ukrainian-Canadian Premier. Slavs across the province were probably wondering what took so damn long!

While Stelmach and company break out the pedaheh under the dome, you'll just have to settle for this week's rolling gravy train of tantalizing tidbits. Enjoy!

The What-if's?
Just in from the Alliance camp is word that Mr. Paul Hinman, the Cardinal of Cardston-Taber, would have been offered a cabinet post had his ideological bed-buddy Ted Morton won Saturday's Tory leadership contest. No word on how that might have gone over in the land of Milk River and honey, where the hottest political issue at the moment is where to build a new divided highway connection to Montana. It seems that former Tory MLA Broyce Jacobs and local Tory business luminaries want it to go their way, exactly where the good townsfolk didn't want it. The Government sided with Jacobs, much to the chagrin of the local yokels.

Fun fact from Cardston-Taber-Warner: Former Alberta Liberal leadership candidate John Reil ran there in 2001, as leader of the ultra-right Alberta First Party. He came in second with nearly 30% of the vote. In the Liberal race Reil wasn't as lucky; he finished third.

The Night of the Long Knives?
There's a rumour making the rounds that Mark Norris may possess a remaining skeleton or two in the closet, unbeknownst to Lyle Oberg. During Marky-Mark's brief tenure as Minister Economic Development, he allegedly rang up a number of expenses on the ol' Government credit card that were questionable to say the least, even for an Alberta Gov't MLA. Of these extra swipes with MLA credit were $1000 shots of scotch and even a new tuxedo for one of Norris's best buddies - and backers. Even the Alberta Report won't mention the Norris knacker, because sources say the gentlemen is equally frivolous with lawsuit threats. The jury is out on what the Premier's office will do now, especially in light of Norris's geographical proximity to the new Premier himself on Saturday night. As a disclaimer, we cannot verify the truth of any of this - yet.

Taft Craps in Cornflakes at Tory Event
Alberta Liberal leader Kevin Taft had some Tories spittin' mad by his rather brazen approach to garnering media. Failed leadership hopeful Victor Doerksen, among others, told an Alberta report operative that Taft was crossing the line by showing up at a partisan function. Taft, for his part, didn't look like he was enjoying himself. Beet-red, haggard, and beseiged on all sides is not a good look for him. Speaking of lousy looks, did anyone see Iris Evans' conbination parachute/snow pant emsemble? Very nice Madame Minister, very nice.

NDP Talking to Dan Backs?
Sources at yesterday's Ed Stelmach availability in the Legislature TV Room were surprised to overhear Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason speaking with Dan Backs about a meeting. Mason delivered his crop of Stelmach criticism, then spotted the ousted Liberal MLA skulking around as things were winding down in the room. Mason was overheard asking Backs if he was busy later. No word on Backs' reply.

Another Blogger Likes the Alberta Report!
This isn't so much gossip as it is blatant self-aggrandizement, but the good folks at this blog have actually named us as a hot new blog-to-watch. Nice! Now when are the establishment blogs gonna start adding us to their bloody blogrolls already? C'mon guys! Please? Give it up for me my Daveberta Daddy, I just wanna be like you!

Press Gallery Gala Cometh
The politician-and-patrician-studded event of the season is this Thursday at the Faculty Club in Alberta's capital. There's a media black-out on the goings-on inside, but you can trust the good folks at the Alberta Report to dish the dirt. Watch for our sarcasm-laden lampooing of who's drunk, who's hot, and who Calgary Herald Columnist Tom Olsen has on his arm this year (last year it was Global's Carolyn Jarvis).

Send your dirt to: thealbertareport@softhome.net.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Morton, Dinning Sunk

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Out With The Old: Klein can be seen here at centre with his biggest supporter, wife Colleen Klein.

(All Photos by the Alberta Report)


EDMONTON - "Thank you all."

With those words an uncharacturistically succinct Honourable Ralph Klein ceded power to the incoming Premier. It was a study in contrasts: Old Klein and relatively new Ed Stelmach, the steady opposite of the former Premier.


The faithful held off the coronation a full hour waiting for the former preem to return from his Chateau Louis excursion. They were rewarded with just three words, "thank you all," the ultimate expression of ingratitude and sore-loserness, a la Klein.

Ed Stelmach and his blue-scarved throng crowed with the adoration due to their run-up-the-middle leadership candidate's run up the middle. Even a long time staffer had trouble articulating Ed's vision - "he's got integrity," she offered, as though "integrity" were some unknown, Venutian element as yet unwitnessed in Alberta politics.

Meanwhile, Klein perched on the arm of the formidable Colleen, while a long queue of lap-topped hacks filed stories into the ether of disinterested Alberta viewership. The stalwarts paced frantically; trying to inject excitement into a story that was, at best, a profoundly boring one.

Such was life at this evening's Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta leadership convention.

Everyone who was anyone was there. From the ink-stained wretch's corner, Dave Rutherford, Graham Thompson, Fletcher Kent, Tom Olsen, Linda Steele, Larry Johnsrude, Sudha Krishnan, Mark Lisaac, Darcy Henton, et al.

From the Liberals: Taft's chief of staff, Taft's caucus outreach coordinator, two other staff flunkies, and what looked like the blogger from Daveberta. Not to mention Taft himself, who looked flushed, aged, and opportunistic in his drive to press the flesh via his personally most unflattering medium, television. One has to wonder: Did he cast a ballot?

No Brian Mason this night, but an anonymous NDP cabal milled about near the cameras, oblivious to their compromising camera position (congrats on being Iris Evans' back-drop, folks).

In the oft chance that Taft did not cast a ballot, a young Jim Dinning supporter (and former student "leader" from the College students' advocacy group) freely admitted to voting twice this day, giving credence to the oft-mentioned creed: "vote early, vote often."

Another flack told our Alberta Report operative that: "Jim Dinning would be there for the next leadership review," presumably one resulting in a poor showing for Stelmach.

There was no such optimism amongst Morton supporters; the first to bolt for the door. Aside from a fervent passion for bible-study, these leather-clad neo-Calvinists have also fervently taken up the role of scorned lovers to the dull new Tory Dauphin. Will they congregate behind the Cardinal of Cardston-Taber? Time will tell.

Who else in the who's who: Dave Hancock, Mark Norris, Victor Doerksen, Gary McPherson, Lyle Oberg (pictured), Huong Pham, Ken Chapman, Gene Zwozdeksy, Iris Evans, former St. Albert player Mary O'Neill. Well, they were all there, prancing in anticipation of the new piper. But what tunes will Stelmach pipe? What tunes will the Tories tap to?

If it's nothing more than the old 4/4, the Tories are in trouble babe, cuz this shit sucks, and it is way past its due date.

- The Xtian Solder. Email me at thealbertareport@softhome.net.




TRUE COLOURS: Former contender Oberg shows off the Stelmach scarf with MLA Huong Pham.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Dinning, Morton, out in front, Oberg dumped

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EDMONTON - The Alberta Report's lessons on the virtues of committed grassroots membership can not go unheeded in light of early returns from the Tory leadership contest in Alberta.

Dinning's machine will stage no conquest this night; Oberg's uprising will go no further.

However, Ted Morton's metric-hating, frenchmen-baiting, churchy bake-sale-making reformers are committed. It could be minus a million and one. These people will line up.

Steady Ed Stelmach may be the compromise candidate. The charge that Stelmach is soft on urban issues is not likely to stick - don't forget who were the kingmakers last time out; they didn't boast postal codes from Edmonton or Calgary.

As for Dinning, his big blue machine was great for speed, but how is it for stamina and longevity?

This Alberta Insider would love to be able to predict a Ted Morton victory. After all, I've got $20 riding on a Jim Dinning second-ballot loss (to Morton or Stelmach). But given the intrinsically democratic nature of the Alberta Report, I won't be allowed to do so.

I will say this, however. The Fletcher Kents of this world who laud this process as an achievement for democracy in Alberta are sorely mistaken. A hundred thousand voters does not a democracy make, and no matter how many disillusioned lefties join the PCs, this big tent isn't big enough. Stick with your own party, folks, this is the Conservatives. Don't like it? Perhaps Ted Morton will buy another round of one-way Greyhound tickets to the left-coast, just for you. Enjoy.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Dan Backs Gets the Boot from Liberals

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No Longer a Happy Family: Backs (bottom right, wearing hat) with former Liberal colleagues endorsing federal Lib Gerard Kennedy


EDMONTON - Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft will hold a news conference today to announce his new caucus of 15 members - one short of yesterday's total.


Edmonton Manning MLA Dan Backs has been removed from caucus effective immediately.

Speculation is rampant that Backs riled party brass with a series of news releases that didn't jibe with Liberal policy at best, and was in direct contradiction at worst.

A release earlier this month from Backs on housing and homelessness called for the Government to immediately raise the minimum wage rather than institute land-banking, fund affordable housing or institute rent guidelines, as the Alberta NDP have been demanding for months.

The release is very different from the Liberal caucus version of the housing strategy, finally released last week, as it actually argues against affordable housing spending.

Backs' full release is below.

Any and all reference to this particular Dan Backs release has been removed from the Alberta Liberal Caucus website, along with many others. Interestingly enough however, many materials remain.

Backs was first elected in Edmonton Manning in 2004.


Original Dan Backs News Release - November 9, 2006

Alberta Liberal HRE Critic Dan Backs Calls for Action on Alberta Minimum Wage


Edmonton - Alberta Liberal Human Resources and Employment Critic Dan Backs released the following statement today urging the provincial government to increase the minimum wage to assist the working poor in Alberta::

"The Alberta Tories are fiddling while Albertans freeze. We need a living wage for Albertans so that they can actually pay rent and damage deposits, to have a home and pull themselves up. In the meantime we should at least have a minimum wage increase.

The last raise was 14 months ago, there has been only one raise in this new millennium and we are in the midst of a boom where rents are rising through the roof. I participated in the homeless count in Edmonton last month. The new phenomenon of the working homeless has at least part of its cause in a too low minimum wage.

Numerous U.S. States just passed initiatives to raise their minimum wage a couple of days ago. The Canadian federal government just came out with a report calling to raise the federal minimum wage. HR Minister Mike Cardinal said in the August sitting of the Legislature that his department would move on the minimum wage. There are far too many reasons for action - why is the province waiting?

I would hope that the department is not going to wait through the winter just because the Tories are picking a new leader. It's cold outside. If Alberta has to suffer that sort of arrogance from the Conservatives, they should all be thrown out in the next election.

Why are we still among the lowest in Canada when we are obviously the most prosperous part of this country?

We just saw Ralph Klein throw $16 million of taxpayers money into subsidized housing to help with homelessness and it is overdue. But decent wages are the best solution.

It also makes sense, if we are not going to scare away the unskilled from coming here from other parts of Canada, to give them some comfort that they might be able to pay their bills with a decent minimum wage when they arrive.

Alberta should raise the minimum wage quickly, and there should be a mandatory annual review and increase. It's there for MLA's and Ministers. It's only fair and Alberta Liberals have been calling for this for years.

Alberta is a high cost jurisdiction that shouldn't be compared to cheap rent areas in other parts of Canada."

-30-

For more information contact:

Dan Backs, HRE Critic
(780) 994-0000

Monday, November 13, 2006

PC Membership Comes Cheap

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So what's in a membership anyway?

That most vaunted of Alberta party memberships is that of the Progressive Conservative variety.


And why not? Its qualities are many. The cards offer an inexpensive way to participate in the "democratic" process, while being pleasantly wined and dined on something akin to the corporate out-of-town credit card.

But the pleasures are also fleeting. These cards expire at the end of 2006, and depending on whose camp you join up with, the perks vary - before and assumedly after the contest.

Lastly, you're hardly alone in coveting the prize. Various leadership camps have set targets over 100,000 members, meaning that your five bucks rates little higher than an old centennial penny in your father's big Texas-Mickey-of-Canadian-Club coin jar - assuming they take your five bucks at all (see earlier story).

Membership pitches in other political parties, like the NDP or the old Reform party, usually function on a "value-added" principle. If you're familiar with commission sales techniques in other sales industries, a typical trick of the trade for the cash asker involved is something called "adding value." This is the process by which the salesperson leads the customer through the products selling points and features, while asking for (arguably) more than what its worth, as a way of convincing you that not only do you need this product, it is worth even more than what the asking price is.

The point is that something given lightly is taken lightly. If you pay more you will treat it with more respect - it will mean more to you. Makes sense, right?

But Tory memberships are none of these things. And in many ways, they do not make sense. Providing $5 memberships to the masses - or organized labour, or church groups - is not connecting with the grassroots. Those memberships so easily given are just as easily thrown away. But the leaders aren't looking to build the grassroots. They need quantity for one night (maybe two) only. What we're watching is the Wal-Mart of Alberta politics - the loss of the occasional stock is irrelevant in this massive inventory clear out.

At this point in the game, campaign workers are frantic. Their emaciated skeletal forms flog memberships like points of meth in the dying hours of a warehouse rave. It is the key to their life after November 25. Assuming of course that there will be life for their candidate of choice.

Sloppy antics and questionable tactics aside, for once the mainstream pundits are correct. This contest is a foot race. Will Dinning has the stamina to hang on?

Judging by the tone of last Friday's folly, we at the Alberta Report are not so sure. And as for the instant Tories who will find their cards expired come New Year's Day 2007, their commitment to the party will be as fleeting as the resultant hangover.

And for many of them, the outcome will be just as depressing.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Gettin' in with Jim Dinning

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Premier-Wannabe Jim Dinning looks skyward for inspiration at a campaign stop last Friday at Edmonton's Metro Billiards.

View Calgary Grit's leadership profiles here. Heavy on partisan editorial (self-admittedly so), but has lots of good tips and innuendo.

The Alberta Decides 2006 blog also has a few choice words for the Dinning camp.

(photo by the Alberta Report)


EDMONTON - Operatives from the Alberta Report joined the adoring throng at Friday night's Jim Dinning rally in downtown Edmonton - in more ways than one.

One operative at the event at Metro Billiards was deluged with buttons, campaign literature, and even special "Dinning Vouchers," ostensibly to sell to his friends.

"It was a shit-show," said the operative, who (of course) will not be named. "The entire event was a frenzied, frantic, appeal to the lowest common denominator in leadership campaigns. Not money, not volunteers - just votes."

Our insider skulked away with a free PC membership, laden with his fake address, constituency, and phone number, as well as a Dinning Voucher book - a type of pledge book to sign up friends and take their money. The operative was not asked to provide proof of identity or of residence, nor was she asked to uphold any sort of ideals pertaining to the party's constitution.

A sign-in book at the front of the room had four pages (as of 7 pm) scrawled full with twenty names a piece. Organizers had evidently hoped for more, but regardless, the venue was full with young urban professionals clamoring for a moment with their leader.

Edmonton's Ward Two City Councillor Kim Krushell and Education Minister Gene Zwosdesky joined the Dinning revelers. Krushell's name had been mentioned as a potential opponent to Rachel Notley in Edmonton Strathcona.

Event organizers also claimed a number of Liberal activists among the Dinning din. Gene Zwozdesky, for his part, left the Alberta Liberal Caucus in 1998.

A bar staffer told the operative that the Dinning camp had guaranteed 200-250 people. While they were short of this number, the bar was full. The $2 high balls, domestic beer and wine were subsidized by the campaign, not the bar.

"We just received a call two weeks ago from someone asking if we'd host this," said the staffer, who appeared lukewarm to the Tory tide.

A three-dollar subsidy per drink, times 150 Tories (many patrons were clearly not partisan), with many in the youngish crowd boozing unreservedly, would not come cheap.

Dinning himself came on to a shower of feedback in a overly-lit makeshift stage, dressed in an Edmonton Oilers jersey to trumpet his hometown roots.

"For the first time in its history, Alberta will have a Premier who was born in Edmonton," Dinning told the crowd.

The essence of Dinning's remarks was his very urgent and very blatant appeal to sell even more memberships and get out the vote.

"Sell the membership even if you don't particularly like the person," said Dinning, to laughter.

"I already did," smirked one well-dressed young woman, proudly brandishing her orange 'I'm with Jim' sticker.
 
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