Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Clareview stop on the summer BBQ circuit

Before replying to some comments to my last post, I'll share here some mental notes I made about Edmonton-Sherwood Park MP Tim Uppal (at left in photo), who hosted a barbecue in Edmonton's northeast Wednesday afternoon, and declared Uppal supporter Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Tony Vandermeer (right). Although I don't currently live in that riding, my folks do and I have kept my mailing address there. I accordingly head over there on a roughly weekly basis to collect mail and to visit with mom and dad. This particular evening I joined Dad in dropping in on a barbeque he was invited to by Mr Uppal.

Uppal makes an amiable impression. He has a normal person's level of shyness instead of a politician's level, meaning that he doesn't go out of his way to "work the room" and give everyone a firm handshake and a good look in the eye. It was actually a little too noticeable that he wasn't looking me in the eye when I was talking with him, particularly when the topic was difficult like the circumstances surrounding his 2008 nomination. While some might think it dodgy, I find some evasive body language reassuring, since it's the politicians who can lie to you or give you a half story without blinking an eye that scare me.

When I raised the subject of the 2008 federal nomination, he made a number of claims, including
- it was not a close vote; he won by 2:1
- yes, he was anointed by party authorities in Ottawa in the sense that Stockwell Day agreed to voice a demon-dial to the membership describing him as the "one conservative" in the race. But that's called politics not playing dirty
- everyone who voted had to prove they were riding residents
- the riding is not "Sherwood Park", it is "Edmonton - Sherwood Park". Given the results of the subsequent federal election, which showed Uppal losing all but a handful of polls in Fort Saskatchewan and Sherwood Park to the candidate supported by a majority of the riding board and who filed as an independent (coloured yellow, below), it was apparently to Uppal's advantage to have held the nomination inside Edmonton city limits, but Uppal rejected the charge that the location of the nomination meeting was furthermore "obscure."

As for policy, Tim discussed the issues from a retail angle and I would be surprised if he were ever moved up off the back benches. His views on the Wildrose party seemed to be consistent with the federal party line, namely, official neutrality but expressing some anxiety about "vote splitting". Afterwards, I was thinking I should have asked him about this story.

While Uppal gives off a "nice guy" vibe, Tony Vandermeer seemed to have a chip on his shoulder.

When talk of an imminent provincial election reached a fever pitch in late January 2008, I advised the head office of the newly combined Wildrose Alliance (I had been working with Link Byfield's Wildrose side in 2007) that I would be willing to stand as a candidate. I was quickly informed that I was acclaimed in Beverly-Clareview. Evidently the party just looked at my mailing address, since strategically it would have made more sense to run in Sherwood Park or Edmonton Whitemud, having as I did other connections to both of those considerably more conservative ridings and the party didn't end up running a candidate in either. But since I was house-sitting in Beverly-Clareview near 66 street at the time and could also base out of my parents' condo at the other (eastern) end of the riding when my folks were gone for a couple weeks during the election campaign, there was a certain logistical sense to my running there at that time. During the campaign, there was never an all candidates forum, so I never ended up meeting Vandermeer or the incumbent at the time, Ray Martin of the NDP. I accordingly didn't expect Vandermeer to recall that Brian Dell was a competitor of his before I reminded him. But I talked with him twice on Wednesday - once when I approached him and introduced myself and a second time when my Dad and I were talking with Uppal and Vandermeer apparently came over to give me a piece of his mind about Wildrose - and the second time he wanted to know "so did you do anything?" [besides just stand as a name on the ballot] and responded to my observations about the spending spree his party presided over by arguing "why don't you get out and run yourself if that's how you feel", a line that seemed oblivious to the fact that I spent $1300 of my own money and several hundred more raised from family to deploy 250 lawn signs, deliver 2500 brochures by hand and another 2500 through the mail (printing cost for the brochures was covered by the party), while knocking on hundreds of doors. Any candidate who has seriously campaigned has knocked on thousands of doors, but the visibility of my campaign's presence in the riding dwarfed that of the Social Credit candidate, and if I ever met Robin Porteous I would not hesitate to point out that I had seen some Social Credit material in a few mailboxes and even a sign or two while I was out and about campaigning.

While Vandermeer's apparent non-recognition of the Wildrose Alliance campaign in his riding is really just a harmless oddity, his "testiness" (as my Dad put it) was rather unsettling for a lawmaker. He clearly has no love for the Wildrose party. He deemed its support to be analogous to that of Social Credit, i.e. not to be taken seriously but enough to bring a deserving candidate such as himself down to defeat in a very close race. He raised the topic of Rob Anderson's defection suggesting that here was an unscrupulous traitor, although he never used those exact words. A certain Darren Richard was at this barbecue and Darren told me that he didn't like Vandermeer's attitude before I met Vandermeer, although it should be said that this person is a current Wildrose organizer and one of the few constituency residents who called me during the last election (he had a big beef with the Stelmach government's section 3 freedom of speech restrictions). While it's pretty obvious I have no love for team Stelmach to requite, anybody who blogs on politics is going to sound either opinionated or vapid. You can't really know a writer without a face-to-face encounter. Tim Uppal's campaign literature may savage the Liberals, but having met him I see that that's his campaign as opposed to his personality.

In any case, my sympathies for Tim Uppal, which were rather low given the stories I had heard, went up considerably after meeting him, while my sympathies for Tony Vandermeer, which were rather high given what I had heard from others, went equally as far down. Subsequent to my chats with these two, Darren got into a friendly battle with a provincial PC party supporter who argued that Wildrosers were gun nuts and ideologues who would try and cut back the compensation due unionized government service workers. Since the last point was a plus instead of a minus in my books (my biggest beef with Wildrose being that I don't think the party has the backbone to actually do it), I had little to add beyond making some comments about the guns issue and, after chatting up a few other strangers milling about, took my leave from my only visit to the "summer BBQ" circuit to date.

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