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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Political Mentor “Marks” Norris as a Klein Clone.

Media reports tell of the recent Art Smith endorsement of Mark Norris for PC leader. Art Smith was the chief cook (and sometimes bottle washer) in the Calgary based Klein Kitchen Cabinet. Over a year ago, however, Smith openly called for Ralph to step down. A few days of “clarifying damage control” ensued but with Art Smith’s musings the die was cast for the political exit of King Ralph.

Art Smith was the man who “made” Ralph – in more ways than one. Dr. Oberg likes to take the credit for undermining Ralph at the PC Convention last April with his “skeleton in closets” comments. Such political opportunism is typical of the Oberg hubris. It is right up there with his belief he can lead a caucus he insults and embarrasses then fails to provide any evidence to back up his allegations. Oberg’s political chicanery tarred the entire caucus to the point they expelled him.

Back to Mark! Art Smith’s immense is practically mythological in Calgary political circles and marks (sic) a major coupe or the Norris campaign. Political campaigns are about change and moving forward, looking at alternatives, testing new ideas, fixing old problems, finding fresh faces, renewed vision and choosing the leader for now and beyond.

Art Smith's endorsement captures one of the disquieting essences of Mark Norris. He is very much, as Smith notes, a Klein clone. Smith’s presence underlines another concern about Norris’ readiness to lead the next Alberta. Research shows Albertans are ready for the future and they are more then a bit anxious about what the future holds. Are things moving a bit too fast for our capacity and infrastructure right now? Is the pace of growth creating new social and environmental problems and turning the entire province into Fort McMurray?

Albertans are not at all interested repeating and perfecting the past - especially in the recent Klein model of “lazy fair” governance. Mark’s major backers are now all older establishment businessmen like Smith in Calgary and Cal Nichols in Edmonton. All are fine fellows and outstanding citizens to be sure. By their presence though, they make their 43 year old “youthful” candidate look like he needs mentoring. They tend to erode our confidence and raise the underlining and perhaps even undermining Norris question – “is he really ready for leadership?” Alberta is the fastest growing economy on the continent. With that growth comes complex problems – both old ones and newer ones emerging. Can he stand up and deal with them effectively for the next 2 years…and beyond? Norris threatens an Alberta separation. He talks recklessly about taking Alberta out of Canada. He sees royalty surpluses from non-renewable resource which are one time revenues as "over taxation." These are some examples that make me shake my head about his policy judgement and his readiness to lead.

Elder statesmen supporters who compare his capability and personality to the past andretiring leader don’t help the Norris’ candidacy and campaign much. Mark is a nice guy and I like him but if he is the reincarnate Ralph Klein, we voters have to ask ourselves some serious questions. Is that what we need now? Or as Ralph used to say "....that was then, this is now!"

How seasoned is Mark to meet modern political pressures and policy demands? Does he have the insight, acumen, proven commitment and personal capacity to deal effectively with the harsh realities of political leadership? Has he got the depth of experience, astuteness and the personal judgment capabilities we need? Is he his “own man” or is he an “owned man?” These are big questions that will not go away about Mark Norris. They will not be overcome with a “hail fellow well met” political patina. Political leaders need competent advisors and confidants. Acolytes and novitiates need elders and mentors.