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Friday, December 08, 2006

"How Morton Made Stelmach Leader"

Link Byfield has provided his “take” of the PC Party Leadership results from last Saturday’s voting. I can agree with Link that Morton was a “backbencher” but to claim he had no “media or public support” is a stretch. How did he “knock out four Cabinet Ministers,” on the first ballot, divine intervention?

I have said before that the reality of modern politics is the facts, while interesting, are almost totally irrelevant to people. It is how you frame issues and how they activate people’s values and beliefs that make the difference. Link is a master at taking a set of facts, framing them in such a way that he sets them up to generate the reaction he wants and he invites people to share his pre-conceived conclusion. This is “spin” at its most sophisticated level.

Here is what he has done in this “Commentary” piece. His preconceived conclusion is that Ted Morton is the real cause of the Ed Stelmach victory. He says as a fact that, “Then because most of his (Morton’s) supporters chose Stelmach as their second pick, Morton’s camp gave Stelmach his whopping majority over Jim Dinning.”

Link also concludes by saying, “So only one of the three finalists was actually defeated, not two. Say what? Are we to believe from this statement that Professor Morton somehow won this election too? I don’t think so.

For the record, Stelmach moved from #3 to #1 between the first and second ballot. What if Morton was second and Dinning had been third and out of the second count? Would Link be as quick to conclude that the Dinning’s camp gave Stelmach the victory because his voter’s second preferences went to Stelmach. Obviously then too “only one of the three, (Morton in this case) was actually defeated?” I don’t think so!

More that 10,000 Morton supporters did not mark Stelmach for second choice and, can you believe this, over 4000 of Morton supporters picked Dinning as second choice. If Morton was the real “cause” of the Stelmach victory those 14,000 votes would have been there for Ed too, wouldn’t you think?

Next he goes further by wrapping all this in another “issue frame”, the same old lets pick a fight with Ottawa. He obviously expects Ed to pick a specific “Morton identified” fight with Ottawa which is based on the myth that the Feds are taking more money out of Alberta than they are entitled to.

The fact is Albertans’ pay federal income and corporate taxes, just as do all Canadians from every province. Albertans make more money and therefore pay more taxes. Duh! This is the essence of progressive income tax models we use in Canada. So much for the facts!

Now Professor Morton believes “…that Albertans must learn to stand on their own feet and reduce the massive outflow of Alberta money to the federal treasury.” Firstly I don’t think Albertans feel very incapable of standing up for themselves, contrary to Professor Morton’s belief.

Secondly, this is not “Alberta money.” That characterization misleads one to think it is resource revenues from the Alberta provincial treasury that are somehow being drained in a “massive outflow…to the federal treasury.”

This money is just the personal and corporate income tax payments of Canadian citizens who live in Alberta. As I said, Albertans make more money than other Canadians so we pay more taxes. Nothing more to it than that! But based on this “blaming” framing of the issue, according to Professor Morton, Premier Stelmach is now supposed to take on Ottawa? And the fight is supposed to be over the personal and corporate taxes we pay just as every other Canadian citizen does?

There are many significant and serious issue facing the Canadian federation and Alberta’s role in it. This Reform/Alliance party manufactured issue artificially framed as a “massive outflow…into the federal treasury” is not one of them.