Sunday, November 26, 2006

Dinning, Morton, out in front, Oberg dumped


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


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."


For more information contact:

Dan Backs, HRE Critic
(780) 994-0000

Monday, November 13, 2006

PC Membership Comes Cheap

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


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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