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Thursday, February 14, 2008

All Candidates Will be Polled on Important Oil Sands Issues

I know that political candidates dislike the surveys that special interest groups send to them during election campaigns. The questions are often amateurish and leading. They are designed to limit the ability of a candidate to respond fully or to weasel out of addressing the issues posed. There will be the usual plethora of such candidate surveys in this election. If the various surveys also gives a sense of a candidates values that are behind the opinions expressed then they provide a real valuable service to voters.

One of the more vital surveys this election,that will be of interest to many Albertans, is being promulgated to candidates by The Pembina Institute. It deals with the challenges and opportunities surrounding the development of Alberta’s oil sands.

I know from the results of the Cambridge Strategies Inc. and Policy Channel survey that there are serious concerns about the rate and scale of oil sands development. The economic benefits have to also be balanced by the environmental and social consequences.

The Pembina Institute has commissioned a professional pollster and will approach all candidates in all 83 ridings to take their online survey. They will be asking candidates for opinions about the pace of oil sands development and if it ought to be controlled other than by the marketplace. They ask if oil sands companies must be able to demonstrate that they can reclaim the lands they mine. Candidates will be asked what standards they think should be used for GHG emission controls, hard caps or intensity targets. They are even allowing the candidates to refuse to answer.

It will be interesting to see the results on a Party-to-Party basis as well as regionally. I would be curious how many of the candidates align with the values of Albertans on the same issues, and which party has the most candidates with the best alignment. It will also be interesting to see which candidates from which political parties actually participate the most in this non-partisan survey.

Pretty safe bet the Greens will be the big participation players percentage wise. The candidates from the mainline parties will need to play too and I expect most candidates will want to let their personal views to be known. I still wonder, however, if the candidates will be directed by the various party campaign War Rooms on exactly how to answer – if thay are allowed to answer at all. Both approaches would be very wrong in a democracy. Either party approach would also be very telling on just how such a political party would actually govern us.

We have seen that top down and message controlling domineering approach with Mr. Harper for the past 2 years. It does not make for good government.