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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Alberta's Times Are A Changin'



The Calgary Sun still does not get what happened and the new the way Alberta will be governed as a result of the Stelmach win. They think Oberg was a key to the win, in no small part because he is a southerner and they do not perceive the sense and sensibilities of the rest of Alberta. As the Paul Simon song goes, so goes the Calgary Sun, "...a man still hears what he wants to hear and disgrards the rest."

Oberg had a hand in the Stelmach win for sure but not much real impact on the end result as any objective analyses will show. He delivered his own constituency, which is more than his Wood Buffalo endorsee Boutilier did. Hung Pham, Oberg’s other big vote generating and significant endorsee with his large block of Vietnamese voters, all moved with Pham to Morton and Calgary went total Dinning as a result. So much for an Oberg significant influence impacting the final outcome.

The real difference in the leadership result was the central and northern rural shift and the real voter growth caused by the Stelmach campaign itself. This was aided and abetted by Edmonton showing up and focusing on Stelmach over Dinning based on Hancock delivering Edmonton to Stelmach. Hancock was able at transferring his campaign operations and volunteer team and the rest of his votes throughout Alberta to Stelmach as well.

Hancock was the first to support Stelmach on the first Saturday vote and also promoted #2 votes for Stelmach throughout the campaign. Hancock started the traction and momentum to Stelmach in Edmonton and area.

Oberg was a delayed Stelmach “supporter” but took a few DAYS to actually back him on the second ballot. Norris was even slower to endorse Stelmach and both I expect bled lots of #2 votes to Morton, for different reasons. In the end result would still be the same and the Calgary media are oblivious to this reality.

The last 14 years in Alberta have been Calgary centric with a rural support based on Ralph Klein’s celebrated support in both spheres. It is evidenced by virtually every candidate having an appeasement policy platform for Edmonton as the Capital City. That has all changed now and the Calgary Compact has to understand how they fit into the new Alberta reality. It will not be difficult because Stelmach is an inclusive kind of guy, not like some other potential leadership candidates would have been very ego-centric leaders.

Stelmach is a rural guy and he won the leadership with the rural vote and with the help of Hancock delivering Edmonton. That is a really different reality than the Calgary media allows themselves to accept. As well Stelmach has the ability to explain the complexity of all of modern life in all of rural Alberta to the urban Albertans. This changing rural reality now includes the forestry and oil sands north and farming in cental areas as well as the ranching and dry land farming in the south. It is vital that Alberta's city-folk, including the Calgary Compact, understand and embrace this rural reality, and they can, if they are prepared to listen.

The Alberta agenda under Klein has been so dominated by what has come to be known as the Calgary Compact, throughout the rest of Alberta. The dramatic Dinning loss and the moribund Morton campaign in the second week underscored the growing animus that has developed toward Calgary. The image of a self-centred dominance of governance control and agenda influence in Alberta was in need of change and that came to be reflected in the results.

There is a change in leadership now. That changes how things will get done, decided and delivered. Calgary still figures into this but if this Calgary Sun piece is any indication that paper has some things to figure out too. This is not going to be a punishing shift. Everyone will be included and considered and balanced for the greater good, because that is Stelmach’s style. But the Calgary Compact is no longer the dominant force it once was that could presume to speak for all of Alberta.

Alberta is, all of a sudden, more interesting, complex, diverse and an inclusive society. It will be good for everyone in the end…including Calgary…but this Calgary Sun story shows they have a ways to go yet before they figure out what really happened with this change of political leadership on December 2, 2006.