There’s a movement afoot and it is going to affect the makeup of the Alberta legislature moving forward. Each of the three provincial parties without a leader now officially has someone running for the position.
That in and of itself isn’t news, but what is of note is how they have each announced and how they’ve behaved in the hours immediately after that announcement. And it’s that “how” that is beginning to tell the story of what kind of a general election we are going to see once the writ is dropped.
Instead of the old-school media release and speech attended only by close supporters, each candidate has opened up the campaign to the public from the get go.
For both Alison Redford and Doug Horner — Progressive Conservative hopefuls — the first act on their first day as a candidate was to create a Twitter account. Redford used it right away and made her big announcement on Twitter.
Social media are changing the face of how politics is done.
Alberta Party hopeful Glenn Taylor and PC MLA Doug Griffiths took it one step further and announced their intentions using a live video stream, so anyone in the province who wanted to see their speeches could do so. Those videos are available online, where visitors to their websites are able to share them with friends on Facebook or Twitter at the push of a button.
Griffiths, a social media veteran by any standard, started his second day as a candidate by sitting down for breakfast with political bloggers to tell his story to them directly. Redford spent the afternoon following her announcement doing sit-down interviews with Edmonton media outlets. One after the other, she told her story one-on-one.
These candidates know the world of politics is evolving and see the role social media can play as part of that evolution. As Griffiths explained during his blogger breakfast, the candidate who engages directly with as many Albertans as possible will have the greatest chance of winning the leadership contest — something he sees the social media tool very effective in achieving.
If this is where these candidates are starting, it will be interesting to see how their use of social media has developed by the time election day arrives.
Speaking of social media, that’s where you’ll have to find me moving forward. Today represents my last Metro column. I first started writing it to increase the public’s knowledge of issues during the Calgary municipal election, but I quit my day job to do that. I’ve recently accepted a position with the City of Calgary and so it would be inappropriate for me to continue writing here every week.
I thank my editor Darren Krause for the opportunity to share my opinions over these past few months, and I know Metro will continue its dedication to local news long after my departure.
See you online!
Calgary original: http://www.metronews.ca/calgary/local/article/777370–social-media-are-game-changers
Edmonton original: http://www.metronews.ca/edmonton/local/article/777370–social-media-are-game-changers
I’m not a big fan of party politics. I could care less which party is in charge. I care more about who the people in government are and what kinds of decisions they make. [Note: This last sentence was cut from the printed version, but I thought it was important so I added it back in for my blog.]
With three leadership races going on at the provincial level there is an immense possibility for new leadership, some names are even being touted as leader for more than one party.
To that end I posted a poll on my blog to find out which individuals would make Albertans proud to have as premier; regardless of party affiliation. I invited readers to pick one of the recently rumoured candidates or to pick several — after all I doubt there is just one and one alone we’d be happy with and I suspect there might be one in more than one party.
I would never tout the results of my unscientific poll as looking anything like the possible outcome of an election, but there were some interesting outcomes which could indicate some emerging trends and give some food for thought.
First, the parties with established leaders in Brian Mason and Danielle Smith didn’t outpace as many of the potential candidates of other parties as I thought they would. This should indicate to the Progressive Conservatives and Alberta Party that at this point their eventual leaders are not as far behind in public consciousness as one might think.
The news is not as good for the Liberal party however. Of the rumoured candidates for its leadership, none of them made much of a blip. Kent Hehr did okay. It’s clear he would be the only current Liberal with a chance of righting their ship. Of course rumours also say he’s being wooed by the Alberta Party and the poll tells me he’d probably have more success there.
My informal poll also shows that the two front runners for the Progressive Conservative leadership are Doug Griffiths and Alison Redford. Their support is solid enough I would be shocked if either don’t run.
The numbers also illustrate many PC hopefuls such as Doug Horner and Jim Dinning would run in the middle of the pack and not make much of an impact in a general election. (Don’t forget this is what they said about Ed Stelmach too though.) However the vote for rumoured candidates Gene Zwozdesky, Gary Mar, Jonathan Denis and Ken Hughes was so abysmal I’m confident in saying unless they have a big game changer in their playbook that no one else has they should save themselves the time and embarrassment.
The big surprise in the poll however was a name I had heard rumoured six months ago but not lately, which I included on a whim. Chima Nkemdirim, someone I thought would have polled near the bottom instead was right at the top. Nkemdirim is Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s chief of staff. If he were to run, I’m confident he’d make a big splash with broad based support from all areas of the political spectrum.
If a day is an eternity in politics then the past week at the Alberta legislature requires a quantum physics degree to wrap your head around.
First Dave Taylor gives the Alberta Party their first MLA, then the premier announces he’ll step down, then the finance minister quits 24 hours later, and finally this week the leader of the opposition does the same.
I may not have that quantum physics degree — and I doubt most of you do either — but that shouldn’t stop us from trying to make sense of all of this and figure out what might happen this summer.
First, we now find ourselves with three of the five parties with sitting MLAs missing a leader. This is unprecedented uncertainty that opens up a lot of possibilities for a lot of people.
Alberta Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman has indicated she is being wooed to run for the leadership of both the Liberals and the Alberta Party. Rural MLA Doug Griffiths is receiving a push to run for the Progressive Conservatives as well as the Alberta Party too.
I’m confident they are not the only ones being pulled in two directions at the same time. With this kind of potential major player shakeup, my guess is the craziest things possible at the legislature haven’t even happened yet.
So what is the craziest thing that could happen?
Ted Morton to this point is the only person to declare he is running for the leadership of the PCs. In 2006 when he ran he had the support of hundreds of people who are now members of the Wildrose Alliance — a group who know opportunity when it knocks.
It is not outside the realm of possibility that Wildrose members could join the PC party again to “hedge their bets” by making sure Morton becomes leader. This is something that makes a lot of sense for them to do.
This would be the best possible news to Liberal, NDP and Alberta Party supporters. With Morton as leader, half the PC party membership would be without an ideological home — after all, they didn’t vote for him the first time and they didn’t join the Wildrose when were asked to.
Without a home supporters would no doubt look to these parties (especially the more centrist Alberta Party) as their new banner.
Just like the Wildrose members joining the PC party, we could see other opposition party members join as well to also vote for Morton in the leadership race and thus destroy the 40-year-old party from within.
Without a strong Progressive Conservative party running in the next election you would be guaranteed to see some new blood and major change happening. Which as ever party knows, is exactly what the majority of voters are crying out for.
If this scenario ends up coming true, you read it here first. If it doesn’t, well I did say it was “crazy.” But as the past week has shown, Alberta politics does crazy very well.
Calgary original: http://www.metronews.ca/calgary/local/article/762974–wrap-your-head-around-this-equation
Edmonton original: http://www.metronews.ca/edmonton/local/article/762974–wrap-your-head-around-this-equation
It looks like Stelmach made the decision for us.
There’s no need for an election to make it happen. There will be a new premier by next year. And in the wake of Premier Stelmach’s resignation the long list of potential replacements is starting to pile up.
Ted Morton has to be the front-runner at this point — if not for the caucus budget brouhaha we’ve been reading about, then at least for the number of Wildrose Alliance members who could very well purchase a PC Party membership to install him as the next premier. (Consider this a hedging-your-bets play by more conservative-minded politicos.)
But behind the obvious choice of Morton, the pack starts getting very confusing. The other contenders may include Dave Hancock and Doug Horner, as well as “outsiders” Jim Dinning and Jim Prentice.
But it is 2011 now. The upcoming election campaign will be unlike any the Progressive Conservatives have faced in their 40-year run. It will take a different kind of leader to pull off another win over the upstart Wildrose Alliance and Alberta Party.
It’s going to be someone like Lindsay Blackett, Jonathan Denis, Thomas Lukaszuk, Alison Redford and their like who will have to lead the party forward. But sadly, the majority in this group have ended up in their seat by playing the “old” game well and don’t really represent a “new,” less partisan way forward.
The only man I can see in a position to be the right person at the right time is a little-known MLA from Hardisty: Doug Griffiths.
To begin with, he is Alberta. He fits in everywhere and everyone has an immense amount of respect for the man — north, south; rural, urban; conservative, liberal; the energy sector, farmers. He gets Alberta as a whole, and is the only person, regardless of party, who bridges all these traditional opposites.
Griffiths has tough decisions to make, too. The PCs have barely embraced him, let alone recognized him as the golden boy who could lead them into the next century by transcending the type of election every other party is going to run. Sources tell me that at this point, he’s just as likely to not run in 2012 and be closer to his young family, who will no doubt show him more appreciation.
The Alberta Party, which is entering into a leadership race of its own, sees Griffiths’s value.
Before Stelmach’s announcement, Griffiths was no doubt being pursued to run in the Alberta Party contest for the reasons I list and more.
I don’t want to put too fine a point on it, but the future of Alberta’s government could hinge on Griffiths’s decision. If he were to run, I think he would have a very good chance as a dark-horse candidate to put aside all the PC baggage others will inadvertently carry and win.
Because during leadership conventions the best candidate to lead the party into an election isn’t always the one who comes out on top (Stelmach?), I should stop short of saying Griffiths will be our next premier. But he would offer the Progressive Conservatives, and Albertans in general, a great choice.
Calgary Original: “Griffiths right man at right time?” http://www.metronews.ca/calgary/local/article/756489–dark-horse-griffiths-the-man-to-lead-tories
Edmonton Original: “Dark-horse Griffiths the man to lead Tories” http://www.metronews.ca/edmonton/local/article/756489–dark-horse-griffiths-the-man-to-lead-tories
This week, the City of Calgary made an announcement that I think deserves more recognition than it got.
It was announced the city has selected a public-engagement firm to talk with us — the citizens — about what we want to see in the upcoming 2012-2014 budget.
It may seem like a no-brainer that the city would actually take time to ask us what services we would like and how much we would be willing to pay for them, but strangely enough it’s not something that’s done often, if ever.
I think the administration and council deserve a huge round of applause for thinking far enough ahead to ensure that this time, they involve the public right from the beginning.
However, my round of applause may look like a standing ovation to some and an ironic slow clap to others.
In hiring a firm — and according to the request for proposals, paying them $250,000 — to “engage the public,” the city is effectively admitting that it doesn’t don’t know how to do this itself.
Which, of course, begs the question: If 14,000 municipal employees don’t have the skills to engage the public, then what they heck are they doing? If there was one thing they were good at, shouldn’t this be that one thing?
To even the untrained eye, however, this has become reality. “Public engagement” has been twisted into “informing the public about a decision that’s already been made,” which obviously is exactly the opposite of what public-engagement processes are meant to be.
This leads us to another question: Whose job is public engagement anyway? I would argue asking us what we want and then making sure it happens is entirely the point of elected officials. After all, if they didn’t do this, then what purpose do they serve?
But if public engagement is the job of our elected officials, I have to ask: When was the last time your councillor asked your opinion on something coming up at city hall?
If it’s the job of the alderman to know what the public wants, we’re in bad shape. Aside from Ald. Gian-Carlo Carra, who is very familiar with the planning charette process, I can’t think of any other alderman with previous experience in this field.
That could be forgiven by each of them hiring a constituency assistant with these skills. But if any of those assistants have these skills, you wouldn’t know it. Aside from Bob Hawkesworth in 2008 and 2009, no alderman has held a big public priority-setting event.
Ald. Shane Keating gives us some hope, however. Next week, he’s holding an event to gather information about the future of motorsports in Calgary. Granted, the event is not open to the public, but so long as it’s not a town hall-style meeting — a confrontational event format that can’t disappear from use quickly enough — this is at least a baby step forward.
There are infinitely better ways to find out what the public wants. Hopefully the professionals will show them how it’s done, and the city will be able to follow their lead.