Thursday, August 09, 2007

What Albertan's Want The Next Election To Be About - Part 2.

My post yesterday dealt with the relative importance of the top and bottom issues in our conjoint study on 15 key policy issues done in the fall of 2006 during the Alberta PC Leadership campaign. We noted the management of environmental issues around water, land and air quality was the #1 issue on the minds of Albertans who participated in the study.

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.’


  1. Anonymous8:46 am

    Excellent summary, but I am confused. If Albertans actually voted for policies that supported environmental protection, the Alberta Tories would never be elected again.

    The story of Alberta's lack of environmental stewardship, and failures to protect land, water or air is pretty clear, but it does not seem to actually connect with voters.

    Do you actually think that the Tories are at risk if they don't clean up their act on the environmental boondoggle that is the oil sands, land use conflicts on the eastern slopes and failure to properly deal with GHG. I would love to see them held accountable, but I just don't see it.

    Dan B.

  2. Thx for the kinds words Dan. There is a lot of good work in process on all those eco-issues in the GOA these days. We will have to see if the process leads to progress.

    True there was the lack of stewardship the "lazy-faire" days of the last 7 years of the Klein regime but indications are that it is all changing.

    Has it changed? Not yet but I think it is in processs and it has potential...if citizens demand it and not just at the ballot box.

    If the policy ball is dropped on desiging and delivering an integrated sustainable approach to land use, water consumption, air quality and GHG levels coupled with societal needs and economic prosperity concerns as part of the integration - the political fallout will follow - and should be swift and dramatic.

    These are complex and critical times and good governance with the long view perspective has to trump the typical short game of power politics.

  3. Anonymous2:03 pm

    The LPC had a much worse record on the environment and they got re-elected again and again. I think people put environment as their #1 priority but vote based on other issues.

    However, I think Stelmach is correct in protecting Alberta's economy. The premier's meeting is a prime example. Ontario wanted to set up a cap and trade system, which would essentially mean Alberta could pollute as much as they want as long as they purchase enough credits (i.e. flow money to Ontario). We must do more on the environment and the intensity target approach IS working.

    Any talk of an absolute cap in Alberta is ridicolous and will never happen. People are moving out west in the truckloads and, not surprisingly, they are driving and their houses needed to be heated during the winters.

    Finally, the Alberta Liberals have been silent on the issue (or at least the media has not picked up on any of their proposed plans).

  4. Icerider3:16 pm

    It would be interesting to know where the specific issue of affordable housing, rent controls and condo conversions rank in the consciousness of Alberta voters. Particularly when a third of Albertans (and presumably a third of the electorate) rent their homes and are now at the mercy of a rental market gone haywire. Perhaps the unfortunates living in Edmonton's river valleys won't vote and maybe those in tent cities from Lethbridge to Grande Prairie may not vote, but how do you think the urban Tory MLAs with apartment towers in their ridings will fare?
    I think Stelmach, Snelgrove, Evans and Danyluk seriously misjudged the breadth of the affordable housing crisis in virtually every corner of the province -- another symptom of uncontrolled growth and greed in the oil patch.
    If Stelmach thinks managing growth includes ignoring renters with off-the-cuff amendments to the landlord-tnant act, amendments with more holes than Swiss cheese, he and mediocrities he has surrounded himself with are in for a rude awakening. Imagine everytime he says managing growth, the Libs and NDs say Monarch Place and homeless grannies. Who's going to come out ahead on that one?
    Trouble is, it's way too late to do the right thing now and cap rents on any apartment building more than five years old and put a one-year moratorium on condo conversions.
    The only saving grace in this is that Taft can't or won't connect with people he considers his economic and intellectual inferiors.
    But Mason can -- and will. One only has to look at Reform's track record in light of vote splitting to see that the Libs may well benefit from votes bleeding away from disgruntled and disgusted Conservatives.

  5. Anonymous10:45 am

    I suppose icerider wants to break the free economy mold and bring in rent controls. The problem is that rent controls would only hinder future housing starts. I commend the current government for not giving in to the socalists in the province who have liberal guilt issues. Do not intervene in the free market: there will be some growing pains but the market will work its way out.