Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Deconstructing Licia Corbella on Ed Stelmach

There are times when you want to tear your hair out – especially when you read stuff that is mistaken, misdirected and so filled with error. Such is the case in this Calgary Herald signed piece done by the former Calgary Sun columnists Licia Corbella.

For the record I am a card carrying Alberta Progressive Conservative. I supported Ed Stelmach on the second ballot in the 2007 PC Leadership so I have opinions and biases…but I also have accurate information and facts too…because I was there!

Lets deconstruct this “opinion piece” by Ms. Corbella, who is entitled to her own opinions but not her own facts. Talk about "a lot of gall but no mandate!" First she admits she does not know Ed Stelmach but she is admittedly prepared to accept the prejudgement of “colleagues” as fact in forming her opinion. Such is the pack culture of too much MSM these days.

She spends an hour with Stelmach and apparently gleans only one insight relating to a “lame promise to match all charitable donations…” saying “he really didn’t have any concrete ideas. She obviously did not visit his campaign website or refresh her memory with a recent visit to the Premier’s current website. If she did she would have seen just how ambitions a leadership and public policy agenda was and how much he has accomplished in the first year of office.

She says Honest Ed was everybody’s second choice on December 2. That has some “truthiness” to it because Stelmach was the third place candidate on the first ballot on Nov 26. But in first place on the Dec 2 ballot and with the second place choices in the Dec 2 preferential ballot he became the leader with about 60% total preferential votes cast . You needed 50%+1 to win and Stelmach ended up with significant breadth and depth of support throughout Alberta in a distinctively three-way race.

The so-called leading contenders of Dinning and Morton were found to be wanting in some way and an alternative was found. That may have been a compromise for some but not most party members. It was very reminiscent of what we see happening today with Hilary Clinton and Mitt Romney. Nothing in these final results justifies framing Stelmach as a compromise. He was seen as the better alternative and the preferential choices were made by the overwhelming majority of voters.

“For some reason it took Tories more than six hours to count up a measly 144,289 votes.” Give me a break. The PC Party ran polls in all constituencies all over Alberta all day on voting day, manned by volunteers and done on a preferential ballot. The turnout was about 50% higher than the previous leadership in 1992 and it takes time to do democracy properly and accurately so people can have confidence in the results. This is Alberta, not Kenya.

Stelmach’s win was not shocking to people who were engaged in the campaigns, just as Obama is not shocking to highly engaged people in the current American presidential race either. If more MSM knew how to talk to real people instead of the usual suspects and each other, and not to just presume money and name recognition wins campaigns, they could have seen this coming too.

The Mandate question is valid, but only to a degree. The PC Party threw out Ralph Klein and gave any Albertan who was eligible to vote and had $5 to spare a chance to participate in choosing the next leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservative political party. Over 140,000 Albertan’s availed themselves of the opportunity.

The leadership campaign platforms were very clear and Stelmach campaigned on the platform that he would conduct a royalty review if elected. To say he had “…no right to alter the royalty structure on non-renewable resources that has served this province so well for so long” is so wrong at so many levels as to be breath taking. There was an independent expert review panel and public consultation with 5 weeks of open public debate and dialogue on the issues before the government made a final decision on behalf of the citizens who own the resource. To further suggest the royalty structure was breaching contacts with energy companies is absurd and inaccurate. Royalties are public policy arrangements, not private contractual relationships and to suggest otherwise is disingenuous or ignorant.

To suggest the existing royalty structure “…had served this province so well for so long” ignores, without offering any rebuttal evidence the contrary, the findings of the Royalty Review Expert Panel and the Auditor General. Documents are now coming surfacing showing that billions of dollars of royalties were not being paid or collected as owed. That is hardly evidence of a royalty structure that has been serving the public interest " well for so long."

Finally let’s deal with the facts around the “big lesson” the PC leadership participation numbers are supposed to teach us. Noting that there are 3.48 million Albertans and since “…just 51,764 of the - or about 1.5%” of those 3.48 million Alberta participated is a meaningful statement that is at best laughable. Firstly this was not an election but a political event for party members only. You had to be a party member to participate and that was easy to do, be eligible to vote in Alberta and invest $5 and voila you can help choose the next Premier. Second, not all 3.48 million Albertans are eligible to vote in any event, even if it were an election, which it was not. This “analysis” reminds me about the old aphorism “lies, damn lies and statistics” demonstrated at its best.

There is more misinformation and other faulty facts in this opinion piece but this post is too long already. The Blogosphere is rife with such fuzzy headed fatuous content and usually written by anonymous zealots and trolls. To find the same thing in the editorial pages of a competent respected and quality mainstream newspaper is very surprising.