Friday, August 31, 2007
Why Trust Harper?
Harper flaunts his campaign promise to set up a public appointments commission to take patronage and partisanship out of federal appointments (see Aug 30 post). This past week he rigs the Bank of Canada replacement process and follow that up with Conservative and former Mulroney MP and PEI Premier and loyal Harper election campaigner, Mr. Pat Binns as Ambassador to Ireland. Tacky Mr Prime Minister …very tacky!
Feds Face the Supreme Court on Allegations of Breach of Trust for First Nations.
The SCC has agreed to hear an appeal by a number of Bands over mismanagement and breach of trust over oil and gas revenues belonging to the from reserve lands. (See posting August 30).At least three actions are involved in this matter. By the time this get to court Harper will realize just how much he needs and misses Jim Prentice in these issues. Expect the new Ministers involved, the Hon. Chuck Strahl to make stupid comments any day now.
Harper’s Version of Ad-scam is Getting a Life of Its Own.
The Globe and Mail Editorial Board is writing today about this Harper hypocrisy and in the same context as our postings of August 29 and 30. This election advertising scheme and the litigious response by Harper is a crystallizing moment. He is going to pay in public trust and credibility. He has also abused volunteer campaign workers by putting some of them at least as parties to a law suit they did not even know was happening. Arrogance they name is Harper.
Peter Lougheed Predicts and Defines a New Alberta/Ottawa Jurisdictional Fight.
Citizens are looking for statesmen with courage, conviction and character and with a concern for the nation. Peter Lougheed and Preston Manning have emerged as those kinds of people (Brian Mulroney not so much). Expect the Lougheed speech to the Canadian Bar Association AGM this week to be a milestone in the evolving reality of and integration of the environment and the economy. If it turns into a pissing contest between Ottawa and Alberta we will all be the lesser for it.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
The most notable key provision of the Accountability Act still awaiting Cabinet approval are the measures that establish the Public Appointments Commission to help ensure Cabinet appointments are made based on merit. No wonder that Public Appointments Commission has not been approved. If it were law - as it should be - Mr. Harper would not be able to manipulate the Bank of Canada appointment process like he is. Remember – he plans to do the same kind of power tripping trickery with the judicial appoint process too.
This is going to be a case worth following!
Here is the Note from Eugene Meehan of the law firm of Lang Michener on the case:
The Applicants commenced an action against the Crown respecting its management of royalties and interest on those royalties from an oil and gas field underlying the Pigeon Lake Reserve. The Applicants submitted that the Crown breached trust obligations relating to the control and management of their monies. The action against the Crown was dismissed on the basis that the Crown met all of its obligations as trustee of the Applicants’ royalties. A majority of the Fed. C.A. dismissed the appeals. Issues here include: did the Treaty give rise to common law trust obligations; did the provisions of ss. 61 to 68 of the Indian Act and Orders-in-Council under s. 61(2) infringe or are inconsistent with the constitutionalized treaty rights of the Indian parties to Treaty No. 6; does s. 15 of the Charter protect only “personal rights” as distinct from collective or communal rights of First Nation members; what is the duty of the Crown to consult with First Nations.Chief Victor Buffalo, et al. v. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada et al.(Fed. C.A., December 20, 2006) (31869) "with costs".
Newspaper reports today say the Cons have dropped almost all of the original 34 applicants from the action leaving only two people to take the fight forward. Looks like the CPC Politburo are having some trouble keeping the party faithful faithful. Apparently some former candidates and their official agents are publicly disavowing the advertising scheme.
One former candidate is quoted as saying $26,000.00 was put in and out of his campaign account and used for advertising “…that was not specifically related to his own campaign.” Opps!
Here is the big kicker. Guess where the additional advertising money was spent! It apparently all went to buying advertising in Quebec. It was targeted to bolster the Harper’s promise of “freer federalism” and in specific support of close races in 10 Quebec ridings the Cons eventually won.
Does this smell like the Conservative version of an Adscam to you too? Party money that is subsidized by the taxpayer used to curry favour with Quebec to save the country? It is not a perfect fit because there is no fraud involved but there is a fit nevertheless.
I check them out and took the survey and have received a preliminary report on the findings of an early study the UNLV did. I have undertaken to keep the results confidential so far because the results will be published in an academic journal first. I can tell you, based on early reports; the influence in both instances is significant. I can tell you they are a fascinating insight into who blogs and relates to blogs and how they use them.
I am very interested in the influence blogs have both on the institutions who “run” our society from government to the voluntary sector. I am equally interested in the influence they have on individuals. My suspicion that the Internet and Blogs are two inter-related elements in a new revolutionary form of communications is beginning to be proven correct.
I will keep you advised of the developments on this work of UNLV.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Renewal and revitalization of Alberta politics requires it. The Progressive Conservative Party definitely needs to address the issue of political renewal. The party undertook a half-hearted attempt after the less than stellar 2004 election. But that was under old leadership. Now we have new leadership and that brings new opportunity.
Citizens better get behind the people at Elections Canada and demand no political interference by the Harper Cons in this investigation. They need to be independent and able to pursue this issue without political pressure or interference.
Remember Jean-Pierre Kingsley? He used to be the Chief Electoral Officer and he “suddenly resigned” last December when he took on the Harper Cons over donor status of convention fees. That decision caused Mr. Harper himself to be caught as contributing over the legal donation limits. I am sure it is merely coincidental that the Chief Electoral Officer resigned shortly after that decision. But you have to wonder.
How Accountable has the Harper Con government been around their much vaunted Federal; Accountability Act? Check out Democracy Watch for some background.
Small wonder we feel we can’t rust this government.
The Canadian justice system is a human construct and consequently mistakes get made. Appeals are there to try to minimize their incidence and correct them when they occur.
Systems are like people, they develop cultures, attitudes, patterns and blind spots. Judges are the flesh and blood stuff of human frailty and the judgements they make are mostly honest efforts at rational assessment. They reach their conclusions by weighing evidence and that is based on their experience, insights and a pursuit of practical wisdom. This is all within the laws written for us by our politicians.
The Truscott story show just how wrong and misdirected our systems and judgments can be sometimes. There is a manifestation of this misdirection epitomized in the point made in today’s Globe and Mail editorial. It notes that the original trial judge approached the then federal Minister of Justice (one Mr. Trudeau) attempting to have him launch a prosecution against an author. The author’s offence was that she wrote a book alleging Truscott’s innocence in 1966.
Trudeau declined the invitation to politically interfere in the judicial system as well he ignored the judge’s interference in the political system. We need the judiciary to be feistly independent of politics. We need politicians who value, honour and respect that necessary distance between themselves and the courts.
Steven Truscott finally has seen the benefit of that independent judiciary and lawyers who are well trained and dedicated to protecting citizens from abuse by the state. In light of these events I wonder if Steve Harper is having second thought about his plan to politically interfere with the judicial appointment process. I doubt it. Too bad!
The big lesson from this story for citizens – be careful who you elect and be wary of who they appoint to the bench. Your freedom demands your vigilance.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
 Finally, then as now, the crime scene continues to raise serious questions about the Crown’s theory as to how this crime was committed. While the evidence does not exclude the possibility that the appellant was the killer, aspects of the scene of Lynne’s death seem inconsistent with the theory that the appellant was the perpetrator.
 For these reasons, dealt with in considerably more detail above, we have concluded that, while it cannot be said that no jury acting judicially could reasonably convict, we are satisfied that if a new trial were possible, an acquittal would clearly be the more likely result. Having regard to the highly unusual circumstances of this Reference, we have determined that the most appropriate remedy is to enter an acquittal. Accordingly, in the words of s. 696.3(3)(ii) of the Criminal Code, the appeal is allowed, the conviction for murder is set aside and an acquittal entered.
 We wish to thank all counsel for their assistance in this unique and difficult case. We have already referred to the determination of Mr. Truscott’s counsel, who diligently pursued every possible avenue and presented their case with candour and great skill. Likewise, Crown counsel were extremely thorough and, as one would expect, candid and helpful in their presentation of the Crown’s case."
Even if Elections Canada finds the scheme was legal, the Cons 2006 election advertising spending trickery sure doesn’t pass the sniff test. This kind of allegation is not the stuff of a trustworthy government with indisputable integrity. Doing indirectly what you can't do directly is great old school politics but bad modern governance.
Here is a summary of what I understand is being investigated by Elections Canada. The issue is did the Harper Cons use a campaign spending loophole and if they did, have they exceeded their $18,300,000.00 campaign spending limits in the 2006 election, and then, if so, have they broken the law?
The trick Mr. Harper’s Cons have apparently used was, after they spent the full allowable campaign limit $18,300,000.00 they discovered some local candidates had not used up their spending limits. The central party apparently “gave” the local candidates some $1,200,000.00 in total to “use up” the remaining spending limits.
The clever party apparatus puppies in Con-land then had the local candidates “give” back the money on the very same day. The central party operators then spent the “new” local candidate “donations” on targeted regional election campaign advertising.
This scheme apparently involves 37 individual candidates whose financial officers are now in a court case with Elections Canada about if this was a systematic and deliberate attempt evade election campaign spending laws or just old fashioned politics as usual.
As a taxpaying citizen of Canada, you actually kickback 60% of any party’s candidate election campaign spending, we are talking about your hard earned tax dollars. In close races, regional advertising spending, in excess of legal limits, may have had an impact on outcomes. We can’t ever tell. But we should not have to even ask that question.
The question I now have is, are Mr. Harper’s Cons worthy of our trust and respect as government? Are they worthy of our vote and our consent to be our governors? Are Mr Harper’s Cons capable of governing in a responsible, democratic, accountable, open and transparent manner AND with integrity when they would pull off such a stunt?
I wonder what other tricks Mr. Harper’s Cons have up their sleeves we don’t know about yet?
There are some terrific video interviews on Policy Channel (http://www.policychannel/) with Ken Kobly (Alberta Chambers of Commerce) and Gil McGowan (Alberta Federation of Labour) on the reasons why a workplace ban is a good idea. Full disclosure - I do work for a coalition of heath agencies and organizations in Alberta who are lobbying for tobacco control legislation and Policy Channel is an affilate site of my firm.
Stats Can has been releasing new data showing smoking bans work showing an impressive 27% of people who can’t smoke on the job end up quitting within 2 years of the bans coming into force.
Today Stat Can released another report on cigarette manufacturing. Again showing the trends are in the right direction but it excluded imported tobacco products but that can’t be a large enough portion of the Canadian market to affect the overall trend downward. Here is an excerpt from the report. More encourging news., productino is down and inventories are up...meaing we are making and selling fewer cigarettes.
Total cigarettes sold in July by Canadian manufacturers increased 13.7% from June to 1.7 billion cigarettes, down 22.6% compared with July 2006.
Cigarette production in July decreased 30.5% from June to 1.2 billion cigarettes, down 32.5% from July 2006.
At 1.6 billion cigarettes, the level of closing inventories for July was 23.4% higher than in June and 4.8% higher than in July 2006.
Note: This survey collects data on the production of tobacco products in Canada by Canadian manufacturers and the disposition or sales of this production. It does not collect data on imported tobacco products. Therefore, sales information in this release is not a proxy for domestic consumption of tobacco products.
Monday, August 27, 2007
He make no bones about the depth of his concern over a looming constitutional crisis between federal environmental law responsibility and Alberta’s constitutional right in the Constitution Act, Section 92(A) (1) (b) about
I will have more to say on it later. In the meantime, we are seeking permission from CPAC to run it on Policy Channel. (http://www.policychannel.com/)
It is worth taking a few minutes to go over the background material first. That information is clear and concise. It will help you cope with the questions to follow.
Here is the link to the background and the survey is at the very end of this document. Take a few minutes and make your views known.
Notwithstanding the old joke that says if you put all the economists in the world end-to-end they would still point in every direction - there is some consensus emerging. There were 258 members of the influential National Association of Business Economics who responded to the survey so the results have significance.
Those professionals who keep an eye on events that impact the economy have the following concerns about what can happen to mess up it up.
Defence concern over a terrorist attack and the Middle East is the top issue for 20% - down from 35% only six months ago. That is significant but also that fact that 18% tagged the fallout from the subprime mortgage fiasco and another 14% cited excessive personal and corporate debt as the top issues that can hamper the economy.
Interesting that the impact of the American government debt (3%) and negative trade (8%) balance were so low and declining form earlier surveys. See my post of August 24 on the impact of China on these isues. Even energy prices were the top concern for only 13% - down from 30% in a year.
The long term US economic anxiety is still health care costs (24%) and aging population (21%). The American education system will have a long term negative impact for 17%. The Federal deficit is the top long term concern for 13% and energy issues were cited by 9% of the participating economists.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
“An astonishing poll this week from Cameron Strategy in Calgary shows that undecided voters are now the largest group in Alberta (37%). The Stelmach Conservatives have dropped to 32%. That's down from 54% in January. Liberals, NDP, Greens and Alliance are all stalled. Highest place are the Liberals, unchanged at 16%. The Alberta Alliance remains at 5%, down from 9% in 2004 election.”
It is actually 30% undecided and 6% who will not vote at all in the polling figures I have seen,but that is a quibble. I wonder if Link remembered this pollster was also an able and key advisor to the Dr. Oberg PC leadership campaign. Speaking of Dr. Oberg, when is he going to release his donor list from the PC leadership campaign – what has it been 9 months? He is the last to do it. Remember Dr. Morton said he never would tell Albertans who bankrolled him.
As for the poll, it does not look good for those of us who believe in the leadership of Ed Stelmach. I have only seen the news release on the poll. I have not seen the questions or the data distribution so it is hard to really comment except in the most general of terms. We all know wording of questions can have an impact on outcomes.
It would be interesting to know how many phone calls in total were made in this poll before they got the 600 participants. Some indications are that as many as 15-20 calls have to be made these days before someone is prepared to take the time to answer pollster. The end result is the group participating is not as random as one might think because people self-select to participate and we can never tell what their motivations are.
Regardless of these technicalities, judging by these results, it sure looks like Albertans are disenchanted with politics these days. Stelmach is taking the brunt of this but there is little solace for the Taft Liberals or Mason's NDP, who Link notes are both “stalled.” The Alliance is in free fall too. That and "37%" undecided – maybe the Wildrose Party has some potential to be a force in the next election.
In the mean time the Wildrose Party need signatures to qualify as a political party for the next Alberta election and that is obviously Job 1 for them right now.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Clint was one of the best Ministers in Klein's various government serving as Minster of Human Resources, Minister of Advanced Education, and Minister of Economic Development.
Clint is an intelligent and capable man who practiced politics honourably and ably. His wisdom and generous human spirit will be missed by those of us who value good government and caring governors.
Elections for politicians are like the final game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and a tough job interview all rolled into one. They are always a cause for one to pause and think about the future. Winning or losing is only part of the consideration. Is politics still worth it is a big question.
Stay tuned. More change is in the wind.
The impact of the American subprime mortgage market meltdown is getting wider and deeper and more global every day. This is not going away and the stock market volatility of the past week or so has been dampened by some pretty hefty cash interventions by national central banks everywhere trying to maintain liquidity. But this mess is far from over. In fact we have only just begun.
Here is a taste of what is gong on form the MSM newspapers:
“U.S. home foreclosures soar in July…fallout from subprime crisis seen as a major factor behind 93% jump in default.” Estimates are that the US will see over 2million residential foreclosures in 2007 and 43 States are all ready seeing a 2007 increase over 2006 figures.
“Finance jobs face the axe as housing woes deepen” U.S. financial services industry has 87,962 job cuts so far in 2007 while all of 2006 saw 50,327 financial sector job cuts. U.S. real estate and construction job cuts in the first 7 months of 2007 are 21,620, more than double the cuts in all of 2006.
On the investment side it is not any better and it has infected Canada too where estimates indicate we are holding over $33B of this non-liquid paper. The Financial Post reports that the Ontario government is in for $700 million, Air Canada is holding some $37million and, the Greater Toronto Airport Authority is exposed for about $250million. Even the venerable and huge Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan is in for $60million.
Reports in the U.S. stock market that “confidence is shaky” and some American financial experts are indicating a recession is on the way because the recent buoyant economy has been lead by consumer spending financed by loans against increasing home equity. With housing prices dropping and the increasing foreclosures the consumer psychology changes and they quite spending causing a recession. The virtuous cycle turns vicious.
Put that in the context of where Dubya has taken the American economy from $236B surplus in 2000 when he became President to a $248B deficit in 2006. 2007 estimates say the 2007 Bush deficit is going to be at least $210B. He has overspent as much as $400B in a single year since becoming President. Total U.S. federal debt is now over $5-trillion with $2.2 trillion if held by foreigners. The Chinese hold about 50% of the foreign owned debt.
Now consider the enormous U.S. trade deficit of $758B in 2006 and we see more American vulnerability. The first half of 2007 saw the Bush Presidency creating a trade deficit with China alone of $118B. Ouch! And the war with Iraq must be costing the Americans a pretty penny too…largely being financed by borrowings from China.
So we can see that China is holding Bush by his short and curlies. They can, at their will, dictate a large portion of future of the U.S. economy just by not lending any more and not rolling over the existing American debt they hold when it mature. It is just a matter of time before we see some enormous changes in the direction of the U.S. economy. It is going to have a global impact…and it is not going to be pretty.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
There was so much going on behind closed doors with hidden agendas, and I’ll bet secret handshakes and shrouded rituals and sacrifices, yes sacrifices, at least we can rely on the truth being sacrificed at these events. It all too reminiscent and even makes one a bit nostalgic of the good old glory days of the Nixon Whitehouse and Watergate don't you think? There was obviously a lot going on at the Jellybean Summit and I’ll bet it was really serious stuff - and way too important for citizens, of all people, to know about.
Unfortunately, or laughably depending on your perspective, the only real “news” we got from the Jellybean Summit was about hardships of incompatible red dye regulations between the US and Canada on jellybean sales and how it cuts down our productivity and competitiveness as a nation. And dammit that needs fixin’ right now. And fix it they did, for once and for all, unless, of course, they used the softwood lumber deal as the model. In that case, stay tuned for the inevitable sequel, "Son of Jellybean Dye Regulations - The Litigation Years."
Mr. Harper called the protests “sad” because he was apparently disappointed in the numbers that showed up. The protesters are claiming infiltration of their ranks by the police. This must be because Mr. Harper was feeling sorry for the small numbers of protesters on the ground. I'll bet he was just trying to be helpful by supplying infiltrators who would actually bolster the ranks. These guys could also help out and get some serious protester conflict action going for the TV cameras. Talk about synergy and symbioses...thanks Steve.
If that is all we get out of this "Summit" is the “Ganong Show” over regulating jellybean colours can we save some time and money next time and have George and Steve just phone it in?
Monday, August 20, 2007
law that evolves based on the rulings of judges over time, forming legal
precedent). One of the most interesting things about libel in Canada is that it
reverses the burden of proof, such that the defendant is actually guilty unless
they can prove themselves innocent."
In my opinion the history of libel is "old" but it is the that it is constantly being updated by case law and it is those judicial decisions that keeps it current. Current is a relative term and no doubt the case law in defamation is lagging given the dynamics of the Internet and the Blogosphere. It is not totally out of touch and it deals with libel chill quite effectively as far as I am concerned.
The other point I would challenge is the contention that there is a reverse onus in areas of libel. The Defendant, alleged publisher of the comments that are claimed to offend and damage a reputation is not guilty trying to prove themselves innocent. They controlled the comments, context and events at issue. They merely have to prove their comments were fair comment, or they did not say them or if they did say them, they did not mean them, or they said them, and meant them, they were the truth. That is not a reverse onus. That is the minimum level of responsibility required and inherent in publication and should be considered every time a Blogger hits the Publish button.
The proof of publication is pretty easy for the Plaintiff, it is in the media after all and that is what gives rise to the claim of libel. Proving the identity of the author in the Blogosphere is potentially more difficult given that so many Bloggers (too many to my mind) hide behind anonymity. The other hurdle for the Plaintiff is that they must give evidence and prove loss of reputation. If no one actually believed the libelous post accusations about a person because it was so outrageous, they may have a winning case but minimal damages.
Published apologies go to mitigate damages and that is why you almost always see MSM publishing apologies and corrections if there is any possibility of liability for libel or slander. Chris makes a fundamental new point however related to mitigation of damages. He notes that the Plaintiff has full and unfettered access to the very same Internet and audience as the original publisher of a libel. He can rebut or correct the record himself very inexpensively, effectively and timely because he is also a citizen journalist and publisher.
My hope is this unique power of rebuttal and clarification via direct access to the Internet and the Blogosphere offers the best defence to any lawsuit or efforts at libel chill. The Defendants in the current case are also using the power of the Internet to bring forth a claim of libel chill in this case. I have no seen anyone yet say the comments that were made were fair comment or true or to apologize for making them. They may have and I have not been made aware if this has happened but I would like to know. One Defendant did go to court to claim they were not part of the group that made the post or the link and the court accepted their evidence and removed them from the lawsuit. That defendant effectively used the position "I did not say that."
Ironically if someone who feels defamed uses this Internet access avenue for publishing their own rebuttal or clarification and it does not work or rehabilitate their reputation, maybe they did not have a positive reputation in the first place and then their damages for any libel are again minimal. I don't know if the Plaintiff has engaged in any Internet reputation restoration or rebuttal either and would be interested if it happened.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
The anonymous Bloggers of the world have always bothered me mostly because they can do so much damage to people and reputations given the viral and inter-connected nature of the Internet. They can wreck this havoc with virtual impunity.
I have participated through comments on a posting on Saskboy’s site focused on the recent CBC TV’s The National news item on libel chill and blogging. It is an interesting exchange around some of the issues and implications of defamation, the roles and responsibilities of Bloggers and the necessary restraints on free speech in our laws.
Friday, August 17, 2007
I promised on Wednesday to comment further on Mr. Lougheed’s speech once I had read it. I have requested a copy but have not read it because I can’t. His office replied to my request as follows: “Unfortunately a copy of the speech is not available as Mr. Lougheed delivered the speech by reference to his personal notes.”
Fair enough, he is a gifted speaker and very knowledgeable on the subject matter. He has commented on issues of the pace of oil sands development and the ecological and social impacts and implications before. His comments last Tuesday at the annual gathering of the Canadian Bar Association. I checked the CBA website and it does not even identify Mr. Lougheed as being on the program of their meetings in Calgary this past week. Hummm!
Even without a written text, one can conclude Mr. Lougheed’s remarks were not made as an aside nor were they impromptu. That has never been his method of operation. These remarks have to be his considered opinion and that opinion is foreboding and politically charged.
Already John Baird, the federal Environment Minister is in full damage control. When Lougheed says the emerging and inevitable fed-prov battle looming between Alberta and Canada “will be ten times greater than in the past.” Baird’s pull quote in the Edmonton Journal today says it all. “Our government would never do what was done with the national energy policy of the early 80’s.” Ouch!
So here we have, it one man with great influence and respect, making some significant personal observations at a forum where he appears not even to be on the program. Serendipity or opportunism? Does that matter? His comments focused on some of the most serious issues of the day. The rapid and pronounced media uptake with front page headlines of his warnings have resurrected past ghosts and bogeymen.
The major difference is that the constitutional and jurisdictional wars Lougheed sees this time has Ottawa controlled by Harper, a power controlling, centralizing Conservative. In Lougheed’s NEP wars he dealt with Pierre Trudeau, a centralizing and power controlling Liberal Prime Minister.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
As for the Federal Cabinet, I defer to The Enlightened Savage and his analysis. Save for one point – Jim Prentice is going to have his hands full. Productivity and competitiveness will be two issues that will not be tackled in the time left before an election. However continental energy supply and Canadian-US relations will be a big issue for him to deal with.
With Maxime Bernier in Foreign Affairs and American angst over homeland security – and reliable energy supply security being a big part of that concern will give Minister Prentice plenty to chew on. I posted an Editorial on Policy Channel on this issue if you are interested.
As for Peter Lougheed, with his speech yesterday at the Canadian Bar Association annual meeting, he has now changed the political priority agenda in Alberta and has positioned our fed-prov dynamic in the most dramatic of terms.
Will the Harper government engage in an environmental battle with Alberta over oil sands development and trust the Supreme Court to decide the issue on a Reference. I do not think so. Will the trade-off between environmental concerns and growth of the oils sands cause a constitutional crisis 10 times bigger than the NEP? I don’t think so.
I will have more to say about Peter Lougheed’s speech and the implications and fall out in later postings – and after I have read the speech. One thing for sure – Lougheed’ speech, as reported, is going has made a huge difference in what Alberta will be about and how we will relate to the rest of Canada.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
What was it about Ed Stelmach that the Albertans liked about him when they showed up to chose him as their next Premier last December? The most significant positive Preparation driver for leadership in Alberta was someone with Business experience. None of the leadership candidates were strongly identified with having a business background, including Stelmach. However, his advantage was that he was also not identified with the other very negative Preparation attributes of being a professional politician, a lawyer or an academic. Other candidates were strongly identified with these negative attributes and that benefited Stelmach.
He was able to be identified with issues around the importance of Alberta’s role in Canada and the world. This was partly because of his past portfolios like Agriculture and top of mind issues like BSE and concerns about Alberta’s beef export access to American and other markets. His stint in International and Intergovernmental Affairs helped him understand and explain Alberta's place in a Canadian and international context. Stelmach’s recent success at the Council of the Federation, where he spent time explaining Alberta’s growth challenges and environmental plans, helped persuade most of the First Minister’s to sympathize with us and give us the benefit of the doubt and accept that we were engaged and up to the task.
In the end, I believe it was his personal qualities that made him the most attractive as the next PC leader and Premier. He was seen as an honest man with integrity and he campaigned aggressively on that theme. Even as a politician, he still farmed. That framed him to many as a potential leader who would not lose contact with the real lives of real people and not just identify and deal with the beautiful and bountiful or the rich and famous once he was in office.
His obvious ability to listen and even his lack of media skills would be perceived as positives in the campaign. Remember from the last posting, any media savvy candidate was seen as someone not to be trusted. They tended to be perceived as slick and masters of spin. The quality of being media savvy was a big leadership negative to Albertans in our survey results.
The second most important positive attribute for leadership from our study was being able to be an agent of change and to bring forth new ideas and support new ideas from others. This is where Stelmach's real potential lies, in championing changes. He has lots of change in progress in areas like energy policy, royalties and infrastructure funding. He is setting new priorities with an emphasis on innovation and technology, to concerns about managing growth and even raising issues about literacy.
Monday, August 13, 2007
The vote on the next PC Leader would also be the Premier of Alberta so the selection process was open to any adult Albertan who wanted to pony up 5 bucks and take the trouble to show up and vote. There were lots of people who were not typical Progressive Conservative party types but they did join the PC Party and they showed up and I think they made a big difference in the final outcome.
I had access to some particular insight as to what Albertans wanted in their next Premier. My firm, Cambridge Strategies Inc. with a strategic partner, did a Discrete Choice Modelling survey in the summer of 2003 where we asked Albertans to tell us what qualities they were looking for in the next Premier of Alberta. Given that it was done a while ago I think those findings still reflected, in large part, why Jim Dinning and Ted Morton lost and why Ed Stelmach won the PC leadership on December 2, 2006.
We surveyed influential Albertans, those who are involved in thier communities and whose opinions matter to other people, as to their preferences in three major leadership categories, Preparation for Premier, Vision and Education. We broke Preparation to be Premier in four experience areas, political, business, academic and legal experience. As for vision we asked if the next Premier should focus strictly on Alberta's needs, Alberta’s Role in Canada or Alberta’s Role in the World. The level of education preferred for the next Premier was between High School, University Degree and Post-Graduate levels.
We also asked about some personal qualities, communications skills and approaches to change citizens valued in their next Premier. The results showed the values of Albertans, including both positive and negative attributes, that would influence and drive their preferences in selecting their next Premier. It also indicated the degree of intensity Albertans held on each attribute.
I will share in my next posting my analysis of why Ed won, but first I will discuss what we discovered to be the least optimal leadership characteristics for the next Premier. I think this analysis of the study results around negative attributes, what Albertans did not want in their next Premier, provides some real insight as to why Dinning and Morton lost.
If your Experience in preparation for leadership was mostly political (Dinning) or academic (Dr. Morton) there was a significantly negative voter influence on you and your candidacy. If your Vision was focused exclusively on Alberta, like Dr. Morton who signed the famous Firewall letter, along with now Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The Firewall letter urged Premier Klein to isolate Alberta from the rest of Canada by erecting a policy “Firewall” around the province. That was the second significant negative attribute on the Dr. Morton candidacy and campaign.
If your perceived personal qualities were Assertive and Self-confident (Morton) or Informed and Curious (Dinning) it was a turn off to voters. The world is a complex place and Integrity, Honesty, Real Life Experience and practical Know-How were the preferred personal leadership qualities Albertans were looking for in their next Premier. If your Communications approach was that of a media savvy political spinner (both the Dinning and Morton campaigns) it was a major turn off. Being perceived as slick and glib was a curse to any candidacy for Leader/Premier.
If your approach to dealing with change was to follow the lead of others; that was the most negative turn off in the entire study. I think Dinning may have gotten caught in this negative attribute because many saw his leadership as an extension of the status quo Calgary dominated continuation of the Klein agenda. Morton, a Reform Party activist, Senator-in-Waiting was perceived to be strongly tied to the agenda of the Reform wing of the federal Conservative Party. He was perhaps seen as someone who would be more inclined to follow the Harper Conservative agenda and isolate Alberta from the rest of Canada.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
What made Cheney change his mind from this analysis of invading Iraq in his 1994 interview?
9/11 is part of it but why did he and others mislead and lie about it - not just to justify an invasion surely.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Environment has been #1 before but historically gets bumped when election time happens and other issues take control of the political agenda. That is not likely to be the case in the next Alberta election, presuming it is held in the spring of 2008. This because of how dominant the management of the environment is to the value concerns of Albertans now and for the future.
The posting identified the low end issues too but here are some results from the middle of the field. They were issues that were getting lots of news coverage but they were not the dominant concerns on the minds of influential Albertans last fall. They included creating a diversified value added economy (7th), maintaining public infrastructure like schools and roads (8th), addressing labour and skills shortages (9th), safe communities (10th) and quality and access to post-secondary education in at 11th place.
All of these are important issues but the ranking and intensity of the concern of Albertans means they are not most important issues for government to deal immediately with if they want to have a policy and political that satisfies the concerns of the majority of citizens.
Next we asked about how Albertans felt their government was performing in each issue area. The overall average performance rating of all issues was only 28.60 percent. Nothing to write home about but not unexpected given that government had been drifting for about 7 years up to that time.
The best performance by government at 51% was in the area of having safe communities, the 10th ranked issue. This is not too surprising since we only asked influentials who are very connected and involved in their communities and would naturally feel safe in them. A statistically random survey that did not focus on engaged citizens and opinion leaders may show different results.
As for the most important issues, like the environment, the performance rating was only 18%. Lots of room for improvement there! Health ranked at #2 performance ranking was well above average at 38%, not bad at all. Reducing poverty the 3rd most important issue saw a performance rating of only 16%. Lots of work to do there! Managing growth was the 5th ranked priority and only had a performance rating of 12%. That is some of the low hanging fruit for Ed Stelmach and one of his five key principles.
In fact Premier Stelmach’ Five Priorities fit very well with the concerns of Albertans that we identified. Why then is he having trouble connecting with Albertans? It is not his policy agenda or his political capacity. It is summed up in 2 words, communications and execution. That is where improvements have to be made and time is a-wastin.’
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
The findings are fascinating. We knew at the end of September, long before the traditional pollsters and mainstream media, that managing the environment issues of water, land and air quality had replaced health care as the #1 issue on the minds of Albertans. Not only was environmental management the most important factor it was well over twice as important as health care quality and access. Equally as fascinating was the need to reduce poverty coming in at #3, topping concerns over education quality, which was in fourth place. Managing growth and providing open and transparent government rounded out the top 6 issues.
The remaining 9 issues were of little importance, relatively speaking, with managing oil and gas royalties (12th) lowering taxes (13th) dealing with resource revenue surpluses (14th). The least important issue on the minds of Albertans was resolving problems facing Aboriginal Albertans.
So Premier Stelmach, there you have it. If you are seen by Albertans as the authoritative, authentic, informed and knowledgeable leader on those six issues you can expect to win with a landslide.
Later in the week I will do another posting on this research and show how Albertans thought their government was actually performing in each issue area. More fascinating results to come.