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
While the timing of today’s announcement by Premier Ed Stelmach may be a surprise, his resignation itself should not be. For months there have been grumblings about how the Progressive Conservative party will handle the next election.
The Wildrose Party has positioned itself as an heir apparent making room for all Alberta conservatives. Meanwhile disenfranchised progressives – mainly, but not exclusively PC members – have been toying with what the Alberta Party could be for them. In short, the party that’s been in power for 40 years was being torn in two with only the most ardent supporters who have fought tooth and nail to get where they were inside the party remaining loyal.
Observers and every PC insider knew something had to give. Polls, predictions and even gut feelings all were showing that with Stelmach leading the party into an election they were going to take a beating on all fronts. My prediction was a minority PC government being the outcome. To many, this was a best case scenario.
PC members aren’t stupid however. They could see the future coming too. With so much outsider anger (and even insider for that matter) directed at Stelmach’s seeming inability to gain enough traction with Albertans his fate was sealed. It was just a question whether he stepped aside before or after the next election. Obviously he’d prefer to wait to do it on his own terms, but as things got more and more dim for his party’s future, more and more of his own caucus mates began pondering how to speed things up to save the entire party. And their own seats.
Given all this there was a small movement afoot within caucus to push Stelmach out. However things hadn’t gotten dire enough for it to be a full blown organized coup yet. But if things did get worse, it would be. And for the internal politics of the party to blow up so close to an election would have all but handed the premier’s seat to Danielle Smith. Stelmach, a 25 year veteran, must have seen this too. And so he decided to do what was best for him and his entire party. Today he swallowed his pride and jumped on the grenade.
The table is clear now. The future is whatever the PCs make of it. The Stelmach baggage is gone and there is still enough time for a new leader to set a new tone to rival the other parties and win voter support. The party has had its biggest burden lifted. They still have lots of baggage, but it’s now at least more similar in size to that of it’s competitors.
Next in part 2: what the resignation means for opposition parties.
It seems strange to me to congratulate someone who is effectively spewing venom. But I feel proud of Rob Anderson for switching allegiance from the Alberta PCs to the Wildrose Alliance. No sooner had he made the announcement and he began immediately exposing the dark corners of the Government he had supported and loved so dearly not so long ago.
To do this takes gumption and honesty. It could not have been an easy decision, but assuming he is telling the truth, it is clearly one based on morality and I applaud him for this. We need more politicians who are willing to be open and honest with the public and who are willing to stake their career on correcting their mistakes.
Yet, that is where my applause for his and Heather Forsyth’s defection ends.
If you don’t read many Alberta political blogs then you probably haven’t seen an interesting phenomenon happening coming out of the Reboot Alberta conference. Average citizens who attended – and many who didn’t – have been taking the time to put into writing what they believe the definition of “progressive” is. “Progressive” being what Rebooters have branded themselves as. (My own thoughts on the subject will come in the near future in the form of a series of posts.)
In my mind, I find myself amazed at the number of Albertan’s taking the time, through this difficult exercise, to try and spell out what they want their province to look like – and how Alberta might get from where it is now, to that point.
I’m not seeing this kind of open idealogical and policy development happening with the Wildrose Alliance and that concerns me. Hardly anyone is talking about what it means to be a Wildrose supporter. Especially before choosing to become one.
Up until this point the majority of what the general public has seen is a party which is defining itself via negative statements: i.e. “We are not the Tories.” This was perhaps most clearly stated during the Calgary-Glenmore by-election when the slogan the Wildrose Alliance staked their claim with was “Send Ed a Message”. There was nothing in there about how their position would be any different, but that’s okay because it tapped into a societal urge to do just that: send Ed a message. (Remember the Liberals did come in second in the race, also beating out the PC candidate. Meaning many voters chose to send a message too, just via a different channel.)
The problem with defining yourself in such a way is you’ve left the power to define you in the hands of your opposition. It would be very easy for Ed Stelmach to simply illustrate ‘the message was received’ and suddenly you’re brand has dried up. To be truly effective, the Wildrose Alliance are going to have to illustrate what they are and just what they are not.
So who is the Wildrose Alliance? What do they stand for?
From the policy documents on their website and what their leader Danielle Smith has said in the media, I think they can be summed up as offering ‘change’ or ‘something different’. While this doesn’t help solve my previous point it’s not a bad horse to hitch your wagon to. After all, it worked for Barack Obama.
But the point with Obama was, he really did represent a different way of doing things. (Arguments can be made that his results so far have been the same, but his methods have been near polar opposites of his predecessor.) I’m not convinced yet that the Wildrose Alliance really does offer a different way of doing things.
Case in point the addition of Anderson and Forsyth. If you’ve staked your entire brand on the fact you are different than the PC Party, how can you accept two of their MLAs as your own? This appears to be a quick – albeit short-term helpful – abandonment of the central pillar of the brand.
Yet, I think it goes deeper than just this. From what I’ve been told, the Wildrose Alliance party was founded by former PC supporters who feel the party has lost its way over the past however many years. Anderson and Forsyth and the framing of the by-election victory illustrate this disillusion as well.
Here’s my point: if voters are looking for something new – how does the Wildrose Alliance represent anything other than simply the PC Party of the past? That’s not new, that’s simply slapping a new coat of paint on the same thing we’ve already had before. Change for the sake of change, if you will.
I’m not deluded however. This alone may be enough to hand them a majority in the next election. The Liberals – despite David Swann’s best efforts – are looking to do nothing more than change their logo, while the Alberta NDP plod along contemplating no change of any kind. When these are the options you are up against, the Wildrose’s fresh face with the same tired out plan might be more than enough.
I may be wrong, but it strikes me the public don’t just want new people doing the same thing we’ve done before. If given the option, they want Alberta politics to be done in completely different – and better – way.
So far as I can see right now, those bloggers typing out their thoughts on what the province could be are the only ones offering anything “new”. And that’s too bad they’re the only ones.
Filed under: Alberta, Arts, Calgary, Marketing, Politics, Technology
As 2009 comes to a close I wanted to take a look back. It was a good year for me personally and I think this blog shows some of the highlights that come to my mind when I reminisce about the last year of the decade. I could simply select my favourite posts, but I decided why not not just let the readers “select” by highlighting the most popular posts on this blog for 2009.
So without further ado, the most popular djkelly.ca Blog posts of 2009:
14. What kind of bridge will $25 million get us?
May 22, 2009
This was my first blog post about the soon to be built Calatrava bridge. I decdided I would take a look at the design limitations given to Calatrava and try to predict what the bridge might look like. While, I was right about it not being white with soaring cables, I wasn’t even close to the guessing the Chinese finger trap design, which is much more ornate than I was expecting.
13. Conversing with Alberta politicians on Twitter
June 4, 2009
A useful post that should probably be updated given how many more Alberta politicians have joined since June!
12. New Ward Boundaries Demystified
February 21, 2009
A simple post created by laying the old ward boundary map with the new map that was being proposed by the chief electoral officer. (Showing off my Photoshop skills.) It turned out to be a post that proved it was sorely needed.
11. Loving or hating Calgary’s new bridge is not as easy as it sounds
July 29, 2009
This is probably one of my favourite posts of the year, as I went through what I observed to be each of the areas of complaint about the proposed Calatrava bridge and outlined which were fair game and which were not. It was my attempt at adding clarity to an issue extremely misunderstood by Calgarians. While it landed at number 11 on the most popular posts, I don’t think I was overly successful because people still complain about the price with little understanding of “why”. If you’re one of those folks, it might be worth a re-read.
The last blog post on the old blog template! It holds a special place for me for that reason, but most people probably just appreciated it for what it talked about – as outlined in the post title. This is the most proud I was of our council this year. They painted themselves into a terrible corner, but admitted their mistake and righted their wrong. I wish they would have done this more times during 2009.
9. Vanessa Porteous, ATP Artistic Director Designate
January 14, 2009
I am shocked an arts related post ranked so high on this list! (And it’s not even the highest one!) Is it because of the lack of local entertainment reporting resources? I think it might be, because non-Hollywood entertainment news tends to take a couple days to make it into the papers. Maybe I should take up Metro Calgary on their offer to blog about Calgary arts for them… It could prove to be a very successful blog that maybe long overdue.
8. Doug Elniski: how to do it right
June 24, 2009
This post – along with number 5, which I wrote a day earlier – simply outlined where things went wrong in MLA Doug Elniski’s mini-Twitter scandal. This particular post provided follow-up and greater context to comments I made in several media interviews on the subject. (You can say SO much more on a blog than in a media interview!)
7. University of Calgary cutting 200 jobs
July 14, 2009
Out of all the posts in this list I think this is the closet to “regretting” one as I come. Unlike all the other posts (save the honourable mention) this post was “breaking” news instead of my usual commentary on the news. I didn’t mean for it to be however! Here’s what happened: the UofC sent an email to all staff saying they were cutting 200 jobs. I heard about this and asked the individual if it was okay I mentioned it on Twitter. They said yes, because it was sent to all staff and thus obviously public info now. The problem was, UofC never sent a press release. So when I posted it on Twitter I was inundated with media requests for more information. The result was I had another source send me the text of the email and I posted it on this blog. That night the television and radio news lead with the story and it was front page news in the papers the next morning. I’m not sure if the lesson here is about the power of Twitter, or to always keep your communications department in the loop when making major announcements. Maybe both.
6. Progress and respect
November 30, 2009
In the aftermath of the first Reboot Alberta conference I summarize my thoughts on the participants themselves.
5. Doug Elniski: now just another walled off politician?
June 23, 2009
(See number 8 first.) This is the blog post that started it all. I’m not sure why no one else was talking about Doug Elniski’s comments in context of his use of social media. It still baffles me that people think social media is some sort of special entity instead of what it actually is: just another way to talk to people. It’s nothing special, but is highly effective. This post was also was popular enough to result in me being invited to talk about his comments on CBC Calgary’s The Calgary Eyeopener, CBC Edmonton’s Edmonton AM and for a feature article in the National Post.
4. The #AskEd Accountablity Window ends tomorrow
December 3, 2009
Just like number 5 this was me talking about Alberta politicians and their failures with social media tools – although this time Mastermaq got the press coverage a week later
3. How to fix Ed’s communications problems
December 14, 2009
After number 4 I felt like I had to address the Premier’s communications problems appropriately. It’s bizarre how he’s lost the media and the public so thoroughly by a simple failure to communicate. He’s our premier and I want to see him, and thus us, succeed. This is my attempt to throw the premier a bone. We’ll see if he and his team take my advice or if they continue to fumble their way through 2010.
2. Look out Alberta, you’re about to get “rebooted”: First Impressions
November 28, 2009
I honestly think the Reboot Alberta movement – along with the Wildrose Alliance’s rise – is the single most important thing to happen in Alberta politics since the creation of the Progressive Conservative party. This post outlines my initial thoughts after the first day of the conference. The fact so many people read it gives me hope that Reboot Alberta is on the right track in their discussions. You can expect more thoughts from me on this movement in the very near future.
Yes, an arts story made it to number one on the list! And for such a short blog post?! The people spoke.
Honourable Mention: “Open Government” coming to Calgary?
July 21, 2009
Usually you expect to see an honourable mention at the bottom of the list, but I think this one deserves to be at the top of the list. July 21 had more people visit my website that any other day in it’s history. By a LONG SHOT – almost twice as many as any other day. There was only one post written around that period of time, and it was written on that very day. I think what happened was the main URL of this site was circulated and shared rather than the actual URL of this paticular post. Therefore I don’t have accurate numbers on exactly how many people visited this particular story, but the numbers are just so overwhelming I had to include it.
I wrote this post during the morning hours in a business centre of a hotel in Portland, Oregon. I had been given permission from Ald. Pincott and Ald. Ceci to announce the open data notice of motion the day before it became public when the council agenda was released. People from all over North American immediately sat up and took notice and did so by reading this post. Amazing. Look for a lot more on outcome of this notice of motion in early 2010.
In case you missed it, a week and a half ago I wrote about the latest of Ed Stelmach’s communication’s gaffes. I almost felt a little sad in writing the post because social media was sort of Premier Ed’s last frontier of communication tools. He had tried speeches, scrums, Question Period, interviews, television specials – and I’m sure there was a long suffering carrier pigeon or two involved – all to very little success. So he turned his attention to the latest trend: social media. His last great hope. And I lambasted him for his hollow effort that missed the mark almost entirely. It felt like I was kicking a puppy. The man and his team are trying their best, but failure to effectively communicate their message has met them regardless of what medium they’ve tried.
And while I am 100% confident this is entirely coincidence, the day after I wrote my condemnation of their last ditch chance, the Premier’s director of communications decided enough was enough and it was time for him to step aside.
I can’t really blame him. Paul Stanway is a long-time journalist who, I imagine, understands two things really well: the newspaper business and the way public relations have been conducted for the past forty or fifty years. Sadly, neither of those two things are very relevant anymore. Newspapers are dying and public relations is a completely different game than it used to be. (Case in point, my entire AskEd argument.)
But talk is cheap. So I figured, why not give some free advice to Stanway’s replacement?
Lord knows they’re not going to ask me to fill the job, so I might as well give away the farm here for free. Besides, I’m just some punk anyway, right? Well, I suppose it’s true that my actual real world job is marketing and communications and I am a member of IABC, which does make me more qualified on paper than Stanway or Tom Olsen were before they started with the Premier’s office. But let’s put that aside. Despite the fact the Alberta PC party is the only party I’ve ever joined, I haven’t held continuous Tory membership for the last thirty years so I’m confident the job is NOT coming my way.
None-the-less, Mr. Premier, I want Alberta to be as great as possible. Right now you are our leader and I would be remiss if I didn’t don’t everything to help you succeed. (I’m post-partisan and don’t care who leads Alberta so long as they lead it with wisdom and to somewhere great.) I don’t profess to have all the answers or to be better than anyone else, but if I was your director of communications, here’s what I would do to get things back on track and restore the premiership to its former – and rightful – place of respect.
1. Ditch the suit – You’re a farmer for crying out loud. Surely you don’t feel comfortable in that tie and matching jacket/pant combo. I’m guessing you don’t because you don’t look comfortable. (And that’s kind of the problem.) We need to get back to what you know best – what you feel most confident in. We need to get your wife dressing you again; as she no doubt has for the last however many decades of your political career. Put some jeans on. Sure you can still wear a nice button-down shirt and sport coat but let’s go shopping for some new boots!
No doubt there will be a time when you will have to wear a suit. People will understand that. But guess what? The guys working in the downtown Calgary skyscrapers only wear suits when they meet with you because you’re wearing a suit. You are the trendsetter in this situation. I know that’s crazy, but it’s true. Besides, many of them don’t wear suits on regular days anyway. Most of them don’t like them either.
2. Start talking with people – I know you’ll protest “but I do talk to the people!”, but please hear me out. I know YOU know the difference between talking with people and talk to people. But a public relations person who can differentiate is a rarity. You’re staff has been having you do the latter, when what you need to do – nay, what you’re best at doing – is talking with people. Communications is a two way street. It’s time to open you up to the public more and start emphasizing the two way part.
Another benefit this creates? It allows you to stop the double-speak. People ask questions because they want answers. Reporters ask questions because they need info to fill pages or minutes of video. You can get away with dodgey answers with reporters if you run them in circles enough. The public on the other hand get seriously pissed if you do that. Personally, I think this is a much better benchmark to hold yourself against; because having the public leave a conversation satisfied means you’ve connected. Having the media leaving satisfied means you’ve either said something dumb they can nail you on, you’ve just spent a couple million dollars, or you’ve simply filled up a tape recorder. Which would you rather accomplish as leader of all Albertans? I vote for connection.
3. Don’t put your head in the mouth of a hungry lion – It may hurt to hear, but it goes like this: you are terrible in front of a camera. Sorry, but you come across as a babbling fool who is out of his depth every time he’s asked a question that requires an answer. (And yes, that would be every question.) So why keep go in front of cameras like that? You’re just punishing yourself. I know this might be hard to hear, but it’s not the media’s fault their method of operating is so different than yours. So why keep playing their game? I hear from people all the time that you are GREAT to have a conversation with. I’ve had more than one person tell me you are a completely different man in person than how you come across on television. So let’s get you out of that Legislature office and start meeting people face-to-face. As a matter of fact I’ll even go as far to say, what you are planning on doing with all those AskEd questions, is EXACTLY the kind of thing you should be doing every single week.
I don’t mean you should stop doing interviews. What I really mean is stop talking the language you think we want to hear and start talking your language. If you’re awesome in one to one conversations, do the majority of your work like that. Let’s get out there in town halls. Let’s invite people to the Leg to have lunch with you every single day. Make AskEd and ongoing thing for crying out loud!
Another added benefit? Because people will have connected with you one-on-one, when you do stumble over your words in front of a camera they will be WAY more inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt.
4. Talk for yourself - Please forgive my language but I think it is important to underscore the importance of this point: No one gives a flying fuck what Tom Olsen thinks. People don’t want quotes from him, they want quotes from you. I’d bet 90% of Albertans don’t even know who Tom Olsen is. So why have him talking to the media? At the same time 90% of what Olsen says in the paper would sound WAY more convincing if it was coming from someone with actual power. Namely you.
You are the Premier. You’re the guy in charge, so get out there and show them that not only are you in charge, but you’re attentive and present on all matters. You can’t defer both the “listening” and “talking” parts of your job. Even if you don’t think this is what you’ve done, I’m telling you it’s what’s happening when a communications director speaks for you. It creates a barrier between you and the voting public. Why would you possibly want to purposefully create barriers like that?
5. Ignore your communications people – Yeah, yeah, I’m basically saying ignore everything I’m telling you too. But I hope you can see a theme in the previous four points: be true to yourself, be open and transparent. If that sounds familiar it’s because it’s what you promised Albertans after you became the Premier. And we feel like we’re still waiting for that. You’ve let us down and that’s surprising. You’re Honest Ed! You’re the guy everybody likes! You’re the guy who can tell us the truth and expect us to handle it. That’s what you used to be known for, so don’t run away from it. It’s not a weakness, it’s your advantage!
Besides, we already know honesty works in Alberta. Just ask your predecessor’s polling numbers after any time he was, perhaps, a little too honest. Trust your gut. You know what the right thing is to do. So do it and stop letting PR people synthesize everything into an over-thought puddle of communications goo.
So there you have it; five points to think about off the top of my head. I know there are many others, but I have my own boss to make sound good. You are welcome to take the advice for what it’s worth and what you’ve paid for it. Or you’re welcome to start implementing it and see where it gets you.
If it works, ‘where it gets you’ will probably be the opposite of where you are now. And judging by how things are going with your communications tactics up until this point, I’m guessing the opposite of what you have now would be a weight off your shoulders.