Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wildrose in Edmonton - Rutherford

Wildrose's Edmonton - Rutherford constituency association held a barbecue earlier this Thursday evening and the first thing that struck me was the latest promotional banners. City Council may feel compelled to pass a road safety bylaw banning the use of Danielle's latest promo image near motorways because her look here is traffic stopping. I'd almost think they overdid it, but if newly minted Masschusetts Senator Scott Brown is any guide, a politician can never be too goodlooking.

Before we sat down to eat I chatted with Jim J and Ben B who work for caucus on the 5th floor of the Leg Annex and we got on the subject of municipal politics. I advanced the thesis that most citizens get involved with political campaigns by starting with the federal level, and from there moving on to provincial and finally municipal politics. Ideally, it should be the other way around, because then people would be more issue-focused than ideology-focused and, more importantly, would not as incubated by a "party machine." As it stands now, a lot of the most influential new people in Wildrose want to do things like they are done within a particular federal party, whereas if they had municipal backgrounds they would be coming in with diverse experiences of what worked period.

After Danielle spoke, a comedian/magician took the floor and he was very well received: "Many of you are politically active. Myself, I don't support an organized political party...... I'm a Liberal." The silent auction was another good idea... the "Wildrose surprise box" went for $20 and I never did find out what was in it.

Safetech invited me to join them at their table but the contributions of various businesses were not limited to buying tables. Alberta Pork supplied the main dish and the silent auction contributions of Weiss-Johnson Sheet Metal and Next Flight Courier were substantial. I would advise other constituency associations cultivating their business relationships like this to also take some photos illustrating a good turn-out and of the event display of their product or service information so that this can be emailed back to the business owners/managers as confirmation that their contributions were not just charity but had a business building component consistent with the experience of sponsors of non-political events.

When Danielle took the floor she addressed a number of policy issues and, just as importantly, provided some background. Reading between the lines of her discussion about the background to taking a position on the downtown airport closure, I felt my suspicion confirmed that Danielle was inclined to take a nuanced position on the airport but that Guy Boutilier and Paul Hinman wanted to dive into the issue like Manual Uribe doing a cannonball. Whenever the party appears to be damning the torpedeos, in my view it's usually because some influential players are temperamentally inclined to a "hang 'em high" Tea Party philosophy and Danielle cannot just ignore and defy such people since the party is not just all about her. Of course as far as your correspondent is concerned it ought to be all about her; - although her communications focus is on what I consider to be micro and local issues, she never fails to be convincing in substance and a model of reasonableness in tone. She also projects empathy, in that one could not fail to notice from her body language that she is either very sensitive or has received an earful or two in the past from those who ardently want both the airport and, more to the point, the issue about it closed. A Ron Leipert type she is not.

So when the hostility of the government has been such that they have obstructed caucus staffers from adding Danielle's name to a press release (on the grounds that taxpayer resources paid for the electricity that powered the e-mail carrying the name of a non-MLA), that may have been just as well in this corner's view since the less we hear from caucus and the more we hear from Danielle the better! On that count, I not only applaud the redesign of the party website, which now looks like somebody with campaign winning experience has worked on it, but salute the fact that Danielle is, in effect, now "blogging" on it (my one bit of advice to the webmaster is use [at] instead of @ for Danielle's email address so bots won't have such an easy time adding that address to their spam lists). Click here for her latest remarks regarding the private healthcare clinic in Calgary. Combine that with Kevin Libin's piece on the matter (which the National Post has interestingly carried as both an opinion piece and as a news item) and I'm far less concerned that the party may have put ideology ahead of evidence-based policy than I was earlier this week. Dave Cournoyer, who has helped cement his reputation as Alberta's authoritative public policy blogger by appearing on Global News this week (along with Edmonton's Mastermaq), had me concerned when he blasted Wildrose on the Calgary clinic matter. After all, surely Dave understood that he has the readership he does because is usually heavy on being informative and light on soapboxing. Since Daveberta hasn't exhibited as much of a compulsion to take shots at Wildrose as, say, Ken Chapman, Mr Cournoyer's criticism can't be as presumptively dismissed. Now that a more complete picture of all the facts has come out, whether one agrees with Danielle or not, fair-minded observers have to agree with Libin that Danielle has provided some sober second thought with respect to the private clinic issue.

Nominations for Edmonton - Rutherford close Friday afternoon, so we will soon learn whether there will be a contested nomination there and in several other Alberta ridings. Barring any last minute surprises, Kyle McLeod (right) will be carrying the torch for Wildrose next election against PC incumbent Fred Horne and, likely, Horne's formidable Liberal predecessor Rick Miller. Finding a candidate to put a lot of time and effort into competing against these two was not going to be easy, but Kyle is evidently not deterred by long odds as he stood as an independent during the 2006 federal election in Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont. Some might question this decision to compete against the Conservative nominee, Mike Lake, given that the riding was Liberal-held at the time of the election call, but since David Kilgour was retiring the riding's competitiveness was largely illusory and, indeed, Lake beat the Liberal nominee by close to a 3 to 1 margin. I don't know enough about Kyle to endorse him beyond his being my preferred party's nominee, but he's done a stunning job organizing in Rutherford and has a picture-perfect young family.

One final, unrelated observation I'll make here concerns the October municipal elections, which I discussed with a few attendees. Early this year I lamented incumbent councilor Bryan Anderson's decision to run in ward 9, since the upscale, older, and (therefore?) conservative-leaning ward would have been open had Anderson, Don Iveson, and Ben Henderson had not all decided to run in wards they don't reside in, just so that Henderson didn't have to compete against Jane Batty in the new northside ward 6. Anderson and Iveson's January announcement was timed to deter would-be competitors from starting to door-knock and fund-raise early in what they thought would be open wards. I, for one, didn't think there would be any interesting races this fall. It now appears, however, that Kerry Diotte (video below) has a very interesting chance in the southeast's ward 11, as Dave Thiele has decided - to the satisfaction of most council watchers - to not seek re-election. I've seen enough Tony Caterina signage on 118 avenue this month to believe that Caterina will be more competitive in arty ward 7 than I previously thought, and the suburban north end ward 3 will also be open. On top of this is the fact that there is a well-funded and organized movement to keep the airport open, which could have supported a pro-airport candidate in every ward. As it stands now, Envision Edmonton has a ground army and phone banking facilities that could have been fruitfully utilized right until election day were these candidates currently several weeks into their door-knocking and fundraising. All this to say that more conservative candidates should have announced a run at council during the first half of this year than actually did.

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