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Monday, March 31, 2008

and the award goes to...

With the Spring Session of the Alberta Legislature set to begin in just only weeks, the provincial scene is starting to come alive again after the post-election hangover/depression is starting to wear off (depending on which side of the Legislature your team is sitting on)...

- The Alberta Liberal Caucus was sworn-in today. The 9-member Official Opposition will include new faces Kent Hehr (Calgary-Buffalo) and Darshan Kang (Calgary-McCall). The Alberta Liberals recently announced their shadow cabinet which includes Hehr taking Justice and Attorney General, Solicitor-General and Public Security, and Kang taking Transportation and Service Alberta.

- Alberta MLAs are getting a 4.7% raise this week (their salaries are tied to an annual adjustment). We'lla ll be looking forward to seeing newly elected Tory MLA Carl Benito (Edmonton-Mill Woods) come through on his election promise to donate his salary to a scholarship program.

- After six-months on the job, Alberta Energy and Utilities Board Chairman William Tillman has resigned. Tillman took over the position following last year's AEUB spy scandal, in which it was discovered that the provincially-appointed AEUB had used public funds to hire a private investigator to spy on central Alberta landowners and their lawyers.

- And the awards goes to... Tory Premier Ed Stelmach for placing a strong second in the Fossil Fool of the Year Awards...

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach has won the dubious title of Fossil Fool of the Year runner-up, beating out several of North America's top energy and automaker chief executives.

Stelmach picked up 25 per cent of more than 6,000 votes cast worldwide and will be crowned 'Canadian Fossil Fool of the Year' on Tuesday, April 1 by San Francisco-based organizer, Energy Action Coalition.

The premier was nominated in the international vote for his staunch support of oilsands development in northern Alberta with "the potential to lay waste to an area the size of the state of Florida," says the coalition.

Stelmach finished second in voting behind Bank of America chief executive Ken Lewis, who has attracted the ire of environmentalists for funding various coal-power projects.

mary robinson in edmonton.

Former Irish President Mary Robinson will be speaking in Edmonton this week.

This year’s lecture, a signature event in the U of A centenary crown, is scheduled for Wednesday April 2, starting at 7:30 p.m. at the Citadel Theatre.

Tickets are on sale at the U of A International Centre or through the Citadel Theatre 780-425-1820.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

no morton points scored here.

After having spent most of my day sitting in Rutherford Library pouring over a series of response articles between the Ted Morton and Rainer Knopff duo and the feisty Miriam Smith, I think my brain is very close to reaching the 'mush' point. As interesting as I find the Court Party debate, I think I'll save writing a post about it until later...

I had some good solid fun checking out the Born Ruffians show at the Velvet Undergroud this weekend. The Born Ruffians are on tour now, so I'd recommend you check them out if they're playing in a town near you... you should also check out their MySpace page for some sample songs. Here's the video for their song 'Hummingbird'...

And of course, as I seem to do at the end of month, I was at Oh Susanna at the Varscona Theater last night. If you haven't been, you should. They put on a good show and rarely disappoint. The Be Arthurs were there too and gave the audience a hilarious rendition of Bitches ain't Shit.

If you've never heard the Be Arthurs, here's a clip from one of their live shows.

Friday, March 28, 2008

it's easy to boycott beijing's summer olympics.

If you haven't read it already, make sure to check out Naheed Nenshi's op-ed in yesterday's Calgary Herald in which he articulately explains why he will be joining a growing list of Canadians in deciding to individually boycott the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Nenshi gives a shout out to bloggers who have jumped on the Boycott Beijing 2008 effort (this blog specifically. Thanks, Naheed!), but if you're looking for more information on the Boycott Beijing 2008 movement you can check out my previous post, Laura at We Move to Canada, and Reporters sans frontières.

In more recent news, French President Nicholas Sarkozy has stated that he may boycott the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games in protest of the recent situation in Tibet.

"Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France, has led a chorus of European criticism over China's actions in Tibet, refusing to rule out a boycott of the Olympic Games opening ceremony.

The publicity gained by anti-China protesters abroad have generated a fiercer response to China's actions in Tibet

"I don't close the door to any option. I want dialogue to begin and I will graduate my response according to the response given by Chinese authorities," Mr Sarkozy said."

doug horner, alberta's minister of advanced education health & technology

And here I thought Raj Sherman (Edmonton-Meadowlark) was the Parliamentary Secretary to Health & Wellness Minister Ron Liepert (Calgary-West), but according to the mandate letter sent this week by Tory Premier Ed Stelmach to Advanced Education & Technology Minister Doug Horner (Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert)...

You will work with the Minister of Health and Wellness to:
• Increase access to quality health care and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of health care service delivery, and
• Ensure Alberta has the health care professionals we need to meet future demand, and

Lead the following initiatives:
• Increase the number of physician graduates from 227 to 295 by 2012;
• Increase the number of Registered Nurse graduates from 1,375 to 2,000 by 2012; and
• Increase the number of Licensed Practical Nurse graduates from 559 to 1000 by 2012.
Doug Horner's mandate letter seems to have more to do with Liepert's portfolio than his own. Maybe after his tenure in Education, Stelmach wants someone to keep a close eye on Minister Liepert...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

more on edmonton's downtown arena.

Continuing from yesterday's post, here's some more coverage from the blogosphere and MSM on the proposed downtown Edmonton arena.

AGRDT: The good and the bad: Edmonton's proposed new arena

Colby Cosh: If you build it, they will come. Or at least Mayor Mandel will, And another thing!

Covered in Oil: Arena Feasibility Committee releases its brochure

The Battle for Alberta: An Arena Response Letter #1, An Arena Response Letter #2, An Arena Response Letter #3.

PunjabiOil: Did Alberta Taxpayers fund the Oilers Dressing Room Renovations?

Scott Henning: Shell game hides taxpayer contribution to new arena

And make sure to check out Paula Simmons' column in today's Journal for the balanced opinions that couldn't be found in yesterday's paper...

what's a wetland anyway?

It's crunch time in academia and I'm up to my waist in paper writing.

One of the papers I'm writing is on the topic of habitat protection in the wetlands of Louisiana. When writing about wetlands in the United States, it's important to understand the many definitions of 'wetlands.' For example, until the Federal Manual for Identifying and Delineating Jurisdictional Wetlands was created in 1989, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Soil Conservation Service, and the Fish & Wildlife Service all operated under different definitions of ‘wetlands.’ This created all sorts of hijinx as each agency had the power to designate areas as ‘wetlands’ and to affect people’s behavior accordingly.

I found this exert from Edward Schiappa's article Toward a Pragmatic Approach to Definition: 'Wetlands' and the Politics of Meaning quite interesting (it was published in Environmental Pragmatism in 1996). It details the campaign promise of President George H. W. Bush to protect the wetlands of the United States (according to the EPA, the U.S. currently loses an average of 60,000 acres of wetlands each year).

"You may remember my pledge, that our national goal would be no net loss of wetlands. And together, we are going to deliver on the promise of renewal, and I plan to keep that pledge...
Wherever wetlands must give way to farming or development, they will be replaced or expanded elsewhere. It's time to stand the history of wetlands destruction on its head. From this year forward, anyone who tries to drain the swamp is going to be up to his ears in alligators"

Bush described the protection of the environment as "a moral issue. For it is wrong to pass on to future generations a world tainted by present thoughtlessness." Encouraging his audience to judge their actions in light of the verdict of future generations, Bush asked those present to imagine what might be said forty years from now:

"It could be they'll report the loss of many million acres more, the extinction of species, the disappearance of wilderness and wildlife. Or they could report something else. They could report that sometime around 1989 things began to change and that we began to hold on to our parks and refuges and that we protected our species and that in that year the seeds of a new policy about our valuable wetlands were sown, a policy summed up in three simple words: "No net loss." And I prefer the second vision of America's environmental future."
Of course, politics being politics, the discussion turned to the definition of "no net loss."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

building edmonton's downtown arena.

With Edmonton's mainstream media bubbling in praise of the report supporting the construction a new arena in downtown Edmonton, I can't help but be put a back at the lack of objectivity in the reporting. Judging by the amount of support in today's papers, you'd think that Colin Powell had just made an irrefutable case to the United Nations Security Council...

Here's a quick look at a couple of things that immediately caught my suspicion...

1) The committee that wrote the report was handpicked by someone who had already voiced support for the downtown arena - Mayor Stephen Mandel. Self-fulfilling prophecy, anyone?

2) The comparisons are reaching. Of course I want Edmonton's downtown to become vibrant, but building a giant hockey rink won't automatically put Edmonton in a position to rival downtown Montreal or New York (like some of the article's have alluded). I'm still not convinced that spending upwards of $450 million (plus land costs) on an arena that will draw the suburbs downtown for a couple hours 2-3 nights a week is what will revitalize downtown. As someone who has lived in the Whyte Avenue area for 4 years, I can tell you that bringing loads of hockey hooligans into an area doesn't revitalize much for the people who are actually living in the neighbourhood.

3) No one seems to be talking about... "Northlands, the non-profit group that runs Rexall Place, released a study in February that said the arena could be rebuilt for $250 million. That report has been shelved while the mayor's committee does its work." (The Battle of Alberta had a good post on this back in October 2007).

4) I think that Journal City Hall columnist Scott McKeen might be getting a little too comfy in his City Hall Office as he spent the majority of his pro-arena article taking aim at those who would rather the public funds be spent on other things, like say, fighting homelessness or fixing infrastructure. McKeen also tried to solidify his case by arguing that the amount of reporters who showed up at yesterday's media conference means Edmontonians should be convinced of the recommendations. Sorry, Scott, but still I remain skeptical.

Through all the frenzy and praise, I'm glad to see that there is still some sensibility on City Council as Councillors Don Iveson, Amarjeet Sohi, Ben Henderson, and Tony Caterina have all publicly stated their skepticism of the report.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"it proves i'm human."

Now, you'd have a hard time finding a person who hasn't inflated the truth every now and then for the sake of good story telling, but you'd think that any sane person would remember the difference between running through gun fire and walking peacefully across tarmac...

Clinton admits Bosnia 'mistake'

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has said she made a mistake in claiming that she came under sniper fire on a trip to Bosnia in the 1990s.

"It proves I'm human," she said in Pennsylvania ahead of the key primary election vote there on 22 April.

Her aides earlier admitted she "misspoke" in claiming she and daughter Chelsea "ran with our heads down" when arriving in Bosnia in 1996.
Also, I wasn't under the impression that there were people who believed that Senator Hillary Clinton wasn't human. What could they possibly think she is?

what's a blogger to do?

I hope everyone enjoyed their long weekend of either:

a) Celebrating the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ;


b) Celebrating the arrival of the magical chocolate egg bearing "Easter Bunny."

Coming back to Edmonton after a weekend spent up north, I had a difficult time deciding just what I wanted to write about upon my triumphant return to Alberta's capital city...

I could write about the proposed development of a new arena in downtown Edmonton. The arena is being proposed as a way to revitalize Edmonton's downtown-core, but I'm still not sure if I understand how building a giant cavernous hockey arena will equal revitalizion. Anyone care to explain? I'm hoping for some good coverage by Battle of Alberta and Covered in Oil...

I also could write about Tory Minister Ray Danyluk's political posturing for rural Alberta in preparation for the next Electoral Boundary Redistribution. It is too early to tell whether Danyluk and his gang (who shall know be known as the "rural clique") are blowing smoke to appease the "rural clique" or are turning an issue of fair democratic representation in the Alberta Legislature into a purely political game. As I've written in the past, rural Alberta is incredibly overrepresented in the Legislative Assembly compared to urban Alberta. I'm really hoping that Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel, Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier, and their Councils don't hesitate in standing up for fair provincial representation for Alberta's two largest cities.

And finally, I could also give a shout out to the Grande Prairie Daily-Herald Tribune for their shout out in yesterday's paper (thanks to Bill for sending me the link). The Daily-Herald Tribune is one of the better newspapers from Alberta's smaller cities and usually makes my list of daily scans (along with the St. Albert Gazette and Fort McMurray Today).

Friday, March 21, 2008

why i'm boycotting the 2008 beijing olympics.

As fun as the Olympics Games are to watch and as great an opportunity they are for amateur athletes across the globe, I can't help but be completely disturbed by the actions of the government of the People's Republic of China in their recent military crackdown against the people of Tibet over the past couple weeks.

With a strong-arm crackdown on freedom of assembly and expression underway in the People's Republic, there is no way that I can feel good about watching and therefore supporting the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.

The list of injustices stemming from that country's regime is long, but We Move to Canada has put together a list of reasons why not to support the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games:

Tibet: China's continuing occupation of this sovereign, peaceful nation.

Darfur: China is Sudan's largest trading partner and the main foreign investor in its oil industry. Most Western oil companies, under pressure from human rights organizations, have withdrawn from Sudan. And although we know that economic isolation and divestment can have a very powerful, positive effect (think South Africa), China continues to do business with Sudan, enabling slavery and genocide.
China: The list of China's abuses of its own people is a long and shameful one.

China executes more of its citizens than the rest of the capital-punishment countries combined and doubled. While China has a much larger population than those other countries, its rate of execution is still disproportionate. China has more capital crimes, and is believed to have more hidden executions and political executions, than any other country in the world.

China jails (and also executes) thousands of activists, political dissidents, journalists, and ordinary citizens who attempt free expression. Reporters Without Borders is a good source for civil liberty and human rights abuses in China, as is Human Rights Watch.

-- China's labour laws are a sad joke. Factory conditions sound like something out of Dickens or Upton Sinclair.

China pollutes water, air and soil with impunity, poisoning and sickening its citizens for generations to come.
So, when August 2008 comes around, instead of watching the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, I will be outside enjoying my freedoms of peaceful assembly, expression, and movement that the people of Tibet and the People's Republic of China aren't able to freely practice.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

dare to deceive.

Hundereds of University of Alberta students gathered in front of the University Administration building this afternoon to protest the lack of consultation that occured before the U of A administration announced it will no longer accept credit cards as a method of payment for tuition fees.

With an average of 18,000 University of Alberta students using credit cards to pay their tuition and fees, a group of students have begun the "Dare to Deceive" campaign protesting the lack of consultation ("Dare to Deceive" is a play on the University's "Dare to Deliver" document which, if you believe the U of A administration, is the best thing since sliced bread).

Not surprisingly, you can still use your credit card to donate to the University in honour of its centenary year.

writing for democracy.

A group of political science students at the University of Lethbridge will be holding a write-a-thon on April 3 at 7:00 in Galileo's (at the University of Lethbridge) to send a message to Tory Premier Ed Stelmach that the Government of Alberta should appoint a Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform.

Sub-campaigns are also being organized at the Universities of Calgary and Alberta.

memo for the alberta greens.

With Greens across Canada buoyed from their strong showings in the Vancouver-Quadra, Toronto-Centre, and Willowdale by-elections (but not quite so strong in Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River), Elizabeth May is probably getting her share of high fives left, right, and center. But on the provincial scene, with the March 3 provincial election only weeks in the past, the Alberta Greens still have a lot of work to do to solidify their place in Alberta's political scene.

Though the Alberta Greens weren't able to win any seats in the Legislative Assembly, they did succeed in almost doubling their province-wide popular vote from just over 2% in 2004 to 4.58% in 2008. They also achieved two strong second place finishes in Lacombe-Ponoka and Drayton Valley-Calmar, and strong third place showing in Banff-Cochrane. If I were to give some advice to the Alberta Greens, it would be to focus their resources on grassroots organizing in the targeted rural Alberta constituencies.

With large parts of rural Alberta involved in some seriously intense land-use struggles, the Greens would do well to focus their resources in these areas. Two of the most high profile areas include Rimbey - where controversy over AltaLink's north-south transmission corridor, the closure of debate on Bill 46, and the AEUB Spy Scandal erupted in 2007 - and the Tofield area - where the Round Hill-Dodds Agricultural Protective Association are fighting the development of a massive coalmine, which if constructed will include a gasification plant and power station built prime farmland south of Tofield (word on the street has it that the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund and the City of Edmonton-owned EPCOR have a substantial stake in this project).

This isn't the first time that the Round Hill-Dodds Agricultural Protective Association has stood up to oppose this type of encroachment. As documented by Todd Babiuk, during the last energy boom in 1976, landowners in the Round Hill-Dodds community rallied to oppose the development of a $2.6 billion coal-fired power station on 360 square kilometers of agricultural land which would have displaced over 130 landowners.

"It turned into a folk tale, big power and big government pitted against real people. Local, provincial and national news outlets followed the story. The local Conservative MLA supported the landowners and then-premier Peter Lougheed, with a keen understanding of his party's rural base, eventually stepped in."
- Todd Babiuk
With the urban-based Alberta Liberals and New Democrats or the largely anti-regulatory Wild Rose Alliance unlikely to be able to capitalize on this type of rural discontent, I would think that the Greens are in the best position to benefit from spending the next four years of their energy harnessing the frustration with the current Progressive Conservative regime in these areas. After netting 22% for the Greens and having strong name recognition in Lacombe-Ponoka, Joe Anglin could potentially be the person best positioned to lead the battle in the rural areas. This isn't a slight against current Calgary-based Green Leader George Read, who has led his party in doubling their support, I'm just more convinced that the Greens' immediate growth potential is in rural areas like Lacombe-Ponoka and Drayton Valley-Calmar, rather than large urban centers like Calgary.

According to a recent media release, the Alberta Greens will hold a leadership review in October 2009.

A Green Shadow Cabinet

This week, the Alberta Greens released their shadow cabinet, which includes Joe Anglin as critic for the Department of Energy and Edwin Erickson as critic for Agriculture and Rural Development.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

three for democracy.

Three articles today on democracy in Alberta from Larry Booi, David Evans, and Marco Adria.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

walking is fun.

Check out the Walkable Edmonton Initiative.

Kudos to the City of Edmonton Community Services Department for this initiative. Walkability is a key element of creating the smart and healthy city that Edmonton should be.

Monday, March 17, 2008

liturgical clarification.

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Jim Lackey at the Catholic News Service has responded to my post from yesterday on what the decision of Irish bishops moving the liturgical celebration of St. Patrick's Day to last Saturday means for green beer enthusiasts here in Canada.

So, you are still safe to enjoy your green beer today with a clear conscience (though if you're like me they'll be plenty of guilt to go around tomorrow morning...). Jim also points out that the next time St. Patrick's Day will find itself in the same week as Easter will be in 2160.

(ES also offers some St. Patty's Day reflections)

Also, I wish I had one of these...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

send back the green beer...

... because we apparently already missed St. Patrick's Day.

Irish Catholics to celebrate St. Patrick two days earlier in 2008

By Michael Kelly
Catholic News Service

DUBLIN, Ireland (CNS) -- Catholics in Ireland will celebrate the feast of St. Patrick two days earlier next year after the Vatican gave permission to move the feast day to avoid a conflict with Holy Week.

Traditionally St. Patrick and all things Irish are celebrated March 17. However, in 2008, March 17 falls on the Monday of Holy Week and, according to church law, the days of Holy Week and Easter rank above all others, so the solemnity of St. Patrick must be moved to another date.

no more credit at the university of alberta.

An average of 18,000 University of Alberta students use credit cards to pay their tuition and fees.

The University of Alberta administration has decided to no longer accept payments by credit card.

(See the 2,400 member facebook group for more info)

one world one dream.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the hosts of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.

BBC News has been covering the Tibet story better than any other news source I could find.

UPDATE: You can find video footage of the Tibet protests here.

(h/t boing boing)

ANOTHER UPDATE: According to The Telegraph, the United States has dropped China from its worst human rights list. Say what?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

i'm not doing anything for the liberal party of canada.

James Bowie has challenged six bloggers (yours truly included) to declare what they are doing to help the Liberal Party of Canada. The challenge originated from a post by Jason Cherniak that caused a bit of a stir over the past week or so in the Canadian liberalish blogosphere (you can check out how Jim Curran, Quito Maggi, and A BCer in Toronto responded to Bowie's challenge).

As you have probably gathered from the title of this post, I'm not doing anything for the Liberal Party of Canada. Indeed, I haven't had much involvement with the Federal Liberals since I spent the 2004 federal election volunteering with Anne McLellan's successful re-election campaign in Edmonton-Centre.

How come, Dave?

I woke up and came to the realization that I have some pretty big beefs with how the Liberal Party of Canada had governed Canada (whether it be on the environment, post-secondary education, international affairs, trade, and of course, Adscam, among others). So, I let my membership lapse in 2006, and since then Stephane Dion's hand sitting maneuvers haven't done much to entice me to re-join his party (not that I'm impressed with Stephen Harper, either).

Since then, I've been content to spend my energies over the past couple years working with the Alberta Liberals and the Council of Alberta University Students on the provincial level, and on improving public transit in Edmonton.

In 2006, I lent Jack Layton my vote and voted for NDP candidate Linda Duncan in Edmonton-Strathcona, but in 2008 I'm not sure who I'd vote for. Even though none of the federal parties are really doing it for me, I'm happy to take the Joe Clark approach and support individual candidates on the federal scene by wishing Elizabeth May, Jim Wachowich, Irwin Cotler, Nathan Cullen, and Oliva Chow good luck in their election campaigns.

fair vote alberta event on march 19.

I picked this up from Idealistic Pragmatist...

Fair Vote Alberta, the provincial wing of Fair Vote Canada, will be hosting an event with former B.C. Citizens' Assembly member Shoni Field. Shoni will be talking to us about her experiences on the Assembly and its applicability to Alberta. There will be plenty of time after her talk for Q&A.

Place: Strathcona Public Library (8331-104 Street), Edmonton
Date: Wednesday, March 19th
Time: 7:00 PM

Friday, March 14, 2008

and the public affairs bureau award goes to...

... good old Neil Waugh, for his gushing endorsatorial of Ed Stelmach's cabinet. As I wrote yesterday, it's not an awful cabinet, but it's certainly nowhere near as orgasmically charged as Waugh's column would have Edmonton Sun readers believe.

Is the one-sentence-a-paragraph bandit gunning for a job at the top? Say, maybe as Tom Olsen's assistant? It would be a shame though, because Waugh is the best fish and game columnist in town.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

what's next for alberta's opposition parties?

After receiving a substantial beating in last week's election, I thought it is important to take a look at Alberta's two opposition parties in the Legislature and make some suggestions on what their next moves should be.

Though there has been talk of leadership change in the opposition parties, I don't see any need for the Alberta Liberals or New Democrats to rush this decision. The goal of both parties should be stability, and I'm not sure how a leadership change in the short-term will help this (I'm not sure you'd see a mad rush of leadership contenders, either). As both parties will have their opposition budgets slashed, they should look to increase their cooperation in the Legislature and in legislative committees for the sake of a stronger and more united opposition.

The Alberta Liberals lost eight seats in the Edmonton region last week. With three seats in Edmonton, one in Lethbridge, and five in Calgary (where they actually increased their seats from four to five), the Alberta Liberals can take solace in that they are probably in a better position to grow than when they were decimated down to 7 seats in 2001. Though I'm sure the financial situation situation of the party isn't pretty, a leaner opposition will force the Alberta Liberals to do some soul searching in the meantime.

Having the majority of their seats in Calgary is a changing dynamic that the Alberta Liberals haven't seen in recent memory, which suggests that the Calgary Alberta Liberal caucus will have more influence on opposition politics than they had before the election.

In terms of Kevin Taft's leadership, my advice to the party is to not rush any decisions. Internal stability is something that will be very important in the process of preparing for the next election and leadership is something the Alberta Liberals need to be smart about. Holding a leadership race now would be fool hearted and would most likely not draw the types of contenders that the Alberta Liberals would need to lead them into the next election. There's no rush, so wait a year and let Ed Stelmach's Tories stumble, then if a leadership race needs to be held, you'll see more people stepping up to the plate.

Over the next four years, the Alberta Liberals need to take a critical look 'outside the box' and decide what kind of party they want to be, including abandoning the traditional party structure and mentality. Everything should be on the table, including more than just a name-change.

Official Opposition MLAs
Kevin Taft, Edmonton-Riverview
Laurie Blakeman, Edmonton-Centre
Harry Chase, Calgary-Varsity
Kent Hehr, Calgary-Buffalo
Darshan Kang, Calgary-McCall
Hugh MacDonald, Edmonton-Gold Bar
Bridget Pastoor, Lethbridge-East
David Swann, Calgary-Mountain View
Dave Taylor, Calgary-Currie

The loss of David Eggen in Edmonton-Calder and Ray Martin in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview means that the New Democrats have lost their official party status in the Alberta Legislature. Also, much like the Alberta Liberals, I'm sure their financial situation isn't pretty.

With leader Brian Mason's only caucus mate being rookie Edmonton-Strathcona MLA Rachel Notley, it's pretty clear who the favorite to replace Mason will be. This said, even though I've never warmed up to Mason, I think that him handing over the reigns to Notley too early after the election could be a bad move for his party.

As a rookie MLA, Notley should be given some time to learn the ropes and decide whether or not she actually likes being an MLA. As much as some New Democrats I've spoken with want Mason to hit the road as soon as possible, putting Notley into the leader's chair this early could be a risky move (but with only two seats in the Legislature, what do the New Democrats really have to lose?).

It is also probably overdue for the New Democrats take a critical look at the advantages and disadvantages of its joint-at-the-hip relationship with some of Alberta's big labour unions. Does its close ties to the Alberta Federation of Labour do more harm than good? What does this relationship mean for the New Democrats claim to being a voice for progressives in Alberta?

(Also, for a New Democrat point of view, Shannon Phillips has some interesting post-Eday thoughts on the election in Edmonton and Edmonton-Calder.)

New Democrat MLAs
Brian Mason, Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
Rachel Notley, Edmonton-Strathcona

planning a cabinet (shuffle).

Here are some thoughts on Ed Stelmach's recently announced cabinet, which looks more like a cabinet shuffle, as it includes most of the pre-election cabinet. I can imagine that choosing a cabinet is probably one of the more difficult decisions that a Premier has to make during his (and maybe someday: her) time in office, but that won't stop me from offering some thoughts...

- Ed Stelmach gets points for bringing some diversity and colour to cabinet for a change.

- Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo Tory Guy Boutilier got the boot from cabinet.

- It must suck to be Edmonton-Castle Downs Tory MLA Thomas Lukaszuk, who was passed over for a real cabinet spot by rookie Edmonton-Glenora MLA Heather Klimchuk.

- With Sherwood Park Tory Iris Evans as the new Minister of Finance and Enterprise, I wonder if Strathcona County will be getting that veto she was talking about...

- Speaking of regional cooperation... Edmonton kept quiet and played nice over the last year, while Calgarians through a fit, and now Edmonton ends up with half the number of full cabinet spots as Calgary. Perhaps Mayor Mandel might want to try out a new strategy for provincial relations.

Paul Simons put it well today...

When Calgary votes Tory and Edmonton votes Liberal, Edmonton gets fewer cabinet seats.

When Calgary elects more Liberals than Edmonton -- Edmonton still gets fewer cabinet seats.

- Parliamentary Assistants abound. Other than that it would probably make more sense to call them Legislative Assistants (or Secretaries), this looks like a cabinet structure borrowed from Gordon Campbell's BC Liberals from when they won their 77 out of 79 seats in 2001 (except, I think they called them "Ministers of State"). The Parliamentary Assistants position is not only a good way for the Tories to train future cabinet ministers, but also a way to keep MLAs busy in the newly supersized caucus. Bringing Janice Sarich and Raj Sherman into these positions was a good move.

- Dave Hancock's move to Education from Health could be seen as a demotion, but it could also be an opportunity to actually get things accomplished in Education (though I think Hancock would have been a much better choice for Finance). I'll be keeping an eye on how Hancock moves on the proliferation of P3s in Alberta's education system.

- Moving Ron Stevens to Intergovernmental Affairs signals is an interesting move by the Tories in their brewing battle against the Federal Tories on the environment file. Interestingly, Stevens' Calgary-Glenmore constituency is also part of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Calgary-Southwest riding.

Check out CalgaryGrit and the Official AGRDT 'Alberta's new cabinet' post for some more commentary on the cabinet shuffle.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

alberta's new stelmach tory cabinet.

Tory Premier Ed Stelmach released his new cabinet list today.

A quick look over the list doesn't reveal too many surprises, but I will have more in depth commentary later today (the reality of being a University student sometimes overtakes the fun of being a blogger).

Though it is interesting to see Iris Evans as the new Minister of Finance and Enterprise.

Make it so.

UPDATE: As promised, here is my take on the cabinet shuffle.

that's a big dome.

What does Edmonton need?

A $200,000 collapsible, geodesic dome for Churchill Square, apparently.

(h/t BoA)

hancock demotion in works?

Some cabinet speculation.

Premier Ed Stelmach will reveal today a largely status-quo cabinet that gives Edmonton only two full-fledged ministers and shuffles veteran Dave Hancock out of health and into a lesser portfolio, The Journal has learned.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

on sex scandals.

It almost caught me off guard, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised at how much attention Canada's mainstream media is paying to the Elliot Spitzer sex scandal. If you haven't already heard, New York Governor Elliot Spitzer has been caught in the middle of a sex scandal involving his alleged employment of a $1,000-an-hour Washington D.C. call girl (you can read a breakdown of the affidavit here).

A quick scan of the exciting Canadian political scene makes it pretty evident why the Canadian media are hopping on board the Elliot Spitzer-sex-scandal-train-from-New York. What kind of exciting political debates that our elected representatives are having in Canada?

- The epic struggle between Dan McTeague and Jim Flaherty continues in the great RESP debate of 2008.

- The Alberta Tories have just won their 11th consecutive majority government since 1971. 41% of Albertans bothered participating.

- Stephane Dion's Federal Liberals back down again, leaving Canadians wondering why Dion even wanted to be the leader of that party in the first place.

At least the Obama-Harper NAFTA-gate leak has provided some sort of excitement in a Canadian political scene that could be otherwise disappointingly described as colourless, insipid, and platitudinous.

the result of an underfunded education system.

"Statistics," one long-time Tory told me a few days ago, "are for losers."

Monday, March 10, 2008

everybody loves question time.

A new look at Question Period...

(h/t p.a.)

unite the left a fancy idea, but...

Like every election post-mortem period in Alberta, the talk of a unite-the-left move has reemerged. I was interested to read an op-ed piece in today's Edmonton Journal in which Athabasca University Professor Alvin Finkle advocates in favour of a merger between the Alberta Liberals, New Democrats, and Greens. Now, I'm completely in favour of tearing down Alberta's traditional party structures and attitudes, but I don't believe it's really as straight-forward as Finkle proposes. Here are six thoughts on a "united left" in Alberta...

1. Bad blood. There's a ton of animosity and moral high-horsery going on between the Alberta Liberals and New Democrats. Party archetypes in both camps really need to put aside their biases and prejudices and take a serious and objective look at why their parties are not connecting with Albertans. With Kevin Taft and Brian Mason taking shots at each other during the campaign, both sides are guilty of creating the animosity, but both owe it to Albertans to look at the bigger picture and at least seriously look at the idea of a "united left."

2. It's aiming at the wrong target. I'm not sure that a merger between the parties is a silver bullet. With voter turnout at 41%, I'd be willing to suggest that all the parties are scrapping the bottom of their support-levels and need to look at the 59% of non-voting Albertans for growth.

3. Pass the vote. This argument assumes that support between parties will automatically carry over to a merged party. I'm not convinced that both parties cover the same spot on the political spectrum and this could leave a lot of Albertans without a party to vote for.

4. Greens on the left? I'm also not totally sure that the Alberta Greens could be considered part of "the left." In fact, I'm not really sure where they are, but I'm sure that the 22% of Joe Anglin Green voters in Lacombe-Ponoka wouldn't consider themselves as part of "the left."

5. Different aims. The merger argument also assumes that both parties have the same target in mind? It's clear that the Alberta Liberals are in it to form government, but I'm not sure that's the same goal of the New Democrats. I'd be willing to bet that most New Democrats would feel a lot more comfortable staying in opposition than taking the reigns of power.

6. First-past-the-post. It seems that a bigger problem is the first-part-the-post electoral system that creates results that don't result in a fair reflection of how Albertans voted. Change the system to STV or PR and I'm not sure we'd be having this conversation.

All of this said, a little pragmatism and give-and-take between the two parties probably wouldn't hurt.

Is a merger a totally bad idea? No.

Is it feasible? That's a completely different question.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

australian cabinet making.

According to wikipedia, "cabinet making involves techniques such as creating appropriate joints, shelving systems, the use of finishing tools such as routers to create decorative edgings, and so on." This process doesn't sound too different than the actual process of political cabinet making which Tory Premier Ed Stelmach is currently undergoing.

Instead of speculating on which Tory MLAs will and won't make the cabinet cut (though I do think it will be a challenging balance act and I may write a post about that), I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how cabinets are or have been selected in two other countries.

Down Under, the Australian Labour Party and New Zealand Labour Party have a tradition of allowing individual caucus member to elect cabinet ministers from their among their peers. Though the Prime Minister had retained the right to decide portfolios, members of factions within the caucus exercised considerable influence over who was elected to cabinet. In 2007, newly-elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd did away with the substance of the tradition by selecting the cabinet but allowing the caucus to ratify it (which it did unanimously).

A similar cabinet selection process was proposed by Federal Liberal MP Belinda Stronach back in 2006 and was supported by former North West Territories Premier Joe Handley.

Friday, March 07, 2008

"the fix is for politics to become relevant to people’s lives."

There's been no shortage of discussion and opinion on the topic of the abysmal 41% voter turnout in the March 3, 2008 Alberta provincial election. With such low voter turnout, it's clear that none of Alberta's political parties, nor the political process as it currently exists, are engaging Albertans. So, what needs to happen to re-engage Albertans?

One of the suggestions that I've heard being bounced around is mandatory voting. In today's column, Edmonton Journal columnist Lorne Gunter defends "the right of citizens not to cast ballots if they are unmoved by the choices." Though I agree with Gunter (yes, that's right...) in that I don't think forcing citizens to vote through fines or penalties is a healthy way to engage anyone in the political process, I'm not sure whether the 59% of registered voters who stayed home on Monday did so on the basis of principle or apathy (I'm tending to believe the latter).

If apathy is the symptom, what is the cause? Some have suggested that the current first-past-the post electoral system is the cause. With Ed Stelmach's Progressive Conservatives' 52% of the popular vote translating into 88% of the Legislature seats, it's clear that the composition of the next Alberta Legislature are not reflective of the votes cast province-wide on Monday's election. Ken Chapman argues that mere electoral reform won't fix the problem and I agree. Though I whole heartedly believe that Albertans need to take a serious look changing the electoral system, I think that it's a bit naive to believe all of a sudden changing the way ballots are counted is the silver bullet that will boost voter turnout and engagement. It's clear that there are deeper issues as to why Albertans are opting out of the democratic process, and Ken put it plain and simple:

"[t]he fix is for politics to become relevant to people’s lives."
Easier said than done, but I couldn't help but be reminded of my New Years resolution from 2007. Participation in democracy is a much broader and important act than simply showing up to vote every four years. Albertans need to reclaim their politics and stop letting politicians and partisan agendas frame the debates and define the issues which are driving the direction of our society. For politics to become relevant, Albertans will need to believe that they can effect change and the emergence of a strong civil society in the form of community and public interest advocacy groups is something that could re-engage Albertans more than any traditional political parties could dream of. Albertans need to take ownership over their province and their political process, and re-engaging on the community and civil society level is probably the easiest way to begin this process.

Alberta's future is too important to leave all the decisions to the 83 men and women under the dome. Alberta's future is too important to allow the defining debates only occur within the traditional realm of partisan politics.

Rumour on the street is that Tory Premier Ed Stelmach will be appointing an unsuccessful Progressive Conservative candidate to head a task force to study why Albertans didn't show up to the polls on Monday. If this is the case, and if the Premier is sincerely interested in discovering why the majority of Albertans are tuning out of the politics, he really shouldn't have to look any further than the rumour of another partisan patronage position to discover why Albertans are opting out of traditional politics.

tar sands, the selling of alberta.

Tune in to CBC at 9pm on Thursday, March 13, 2008 to watch a new documentary film on Alberta's tar sands titled: TAR SANDS, THE SELLING OF ALBERTA.

Tar Sands: The Selling of Alberta captures the intersecting storylines of a remarkable cast of characters eager to cash in on the oil boom in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Washington lobbyists, Newfie pipefitters, Chinese investors and Norwegian industrialists descend on tar-soaked "Fort McMoney", a modern-day Eldorado, where rents are sky rocketing and cocaine abuse is four times the provincial average. Up for grabs - a stake in a $100 billion energy bonanza and Canada's economic sovereignty.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

22 alberta constituencies had less than 40% turnout in monday's election.

I've taken a look at the voter turnout from constituencies across Alberta and after a quick scan of the list, I've identified at least 22 constituencies that had less than 40% voter turnout. The worst turnout being in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo where nearly 80% of registered voters didn't vote. Regardless of the results, this abysmal turnout is pretty appalling.

Voter Turnout - Constituency
21% - Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo
26% - Lesser Slave Lake
27% - Calgary-Cross
28% - Grande Prairie-Wapiti
28% - Peace River
29% - Bonnyville-Cold Lake
29% - Red Deer-North
30% - Calgary-Buffalo
30% - Calgary-Montrose
30% - Grande Prairie-Smoky
32% - Calgary-East
32% - Calgary-McCall
35% - Calgary-Nose Hill
35% - Edmonton-Decore
38% - Banff-Cochrane
38% - Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview
38% - Edmonton-Ellerslie
38% - Edmonton-Centre
38% - West Yellowhead
39% - Calgary-Shaw
39% - Edmonton-Manning
39% - Livingstone-Macleod

i'd like thank the academy...

I am happy to accept the Talking Points Memo Award in the
Election Notebook Awards
from the good journalists at the Edmonton Journal. Thanks, guys!

(I'm actually just happy to be in any category with TPM)

alberta election 2008: post-election blues on youtube.

Over the course of the election, Fringe North has recorded some interesting/entertaining commentary on the election. Here's his reaction to Monday night's election results. I get the feeling he was probably just as shellshocked as I was on election night...

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

alberta election 2008: the aftermath.

Well, I'm pretty glad I didn't take any bets on last nights results.

So, what happened? Partisans and pundits can analyze this one to death, but I'm not sure it's really that easy. In the end, the Tories got their vote out to get their 11th majority government since 1971. But with a 41% voter turnout it's clear that none of the parties are connecting with Albertans on a meaningful level.

Province-wide Vote Total
PC - 501,028 (53%)
Lib - 250,862 (26%)
ND - 81,043 (9%)
WRA - 64,370 (7%)
GRN - 24,563 (5%)

Seat Total
PC - 72
Alberta Liberal - 9
NDP - 2


It's hard to call a voter turnout of 41% anything but embarrassing.

It's commonly said that elections are decided by those who show up, but with two consecutive elections with less than 50% turnout, are Albertans entering an era in which elections are decided by those who don't show up? In Edmonton, seven constituencies saw voter turnout lower than 40% and only one had turnout (barely) over 50% (Edmonton-Whitemud). It seems pretty clear that not only are none of the parties really connecting with Albertans, but that Albertans are completely disengaged from the electoral process, which is very troubling.

I'm really wondering what were the 59% of Albertans who didn't vote were doing yesterday that was more important than voting?

Here's an overview of how the election turned out in Alberta's three main political regions...


In Edmonton, welcome to 2001 + 2.

Ed Stelmach's Tories have returned Edmonton to their 2001 win with the addition of Edmonton-Decore, Edmonton-Mill Woods, and Edmonton-Ellerslie (it's +2 and not +3 because Edmonton lost a seat after the 2003 electoral redistribution).

I've always believed that Edmonton was competitive, but I didn't believe that it would be this competitive. Along with Decore, Ellerslie, and Mill Woods, close races in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview, Edmonton-Calder, Edmonton-Glenora, Edmonton-McClung, and Edmonton-Rutherford gave the Tories the large majority of the capital. The Tories swept all but five seats in Edmonton, leaving the capital city with an opposition of 5, the survivors being Alberta Liberals Kevin Taft in Edmonton-Riverview, Laurie Blakeman in Edmonton-Centre, and Hugh MacDonald in Edmonton-Gold Bar, and New Democrats Brian Mason in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood and Rachel Notley in Edmonton-Strathcona. Though most races in the capital city could be considered close, with abysmal turnout and lost support, both the Alberta Liberals and New Democrats will need to take a critical look at why they lost so much ground in their former stronghold of Edmonton.

New Edmotnon Tory faces of note include former School Board Trustee Janice Sarich and Emergency Room doctor Raj Sherman.

On a personal note, I am really disappointed to see three of the Legislature's most effective MLAs lose their seats last night. I'm talking about Rick Miller in Edmonton-Rutherford, Mo Elsalhy in Edmonton-McClung, and David Eggen in Edmonton-Calder. I've had the opportunity to work with Rick, Mo, and David on a number of issues over the past few years and I think I would have a hard time finding harder working and more genuinely good spirited people under the dome. I'm sad to that they were defeated, but wish them good luck in the next stages of their lives. Take a break, but try not to go too far.


Calgary is an interesting one. The great Liberal surge that every one was talking about never really emerged, but interestingly the Liberals actually net-gained one seat inside Calgary. While holding the seats they gained in 2004 and losing Craig Cheffins in Calgary-Elbow, the Alberta Liberals elected Kent Hehr in Calgary-Buffalo and Darshan Kang in Calgary-McCall, bringing the total to 5 opposition MLAs in Calgary. This is an emerging dynamic that could be a sign of the new face of a politically competitive Calgary.

The Tories held their ground, but faced strong challenges in Calgary-Bow, Calgary-Elbow, Calgary-Foothills, and Calgary-North Hill. The Tories also elected a swath of new MLAs including big names Teresa Woo-Paw and Alison Redford, while star candidate Arthur Kent was unable to unseat Dave Taylor in Calgary-Currie.

Also, Independent Robin Leech in Calgary-Montrose placed a very strong second against Tory Manmeet Bhullar. And after much hoopla, former-Tory Craig Chandler placed third in Calgary-Egmont behind Tory Jonathan Denis and Liberal Cathie Williams.

Lethbridge and wildcards

Not much has changed as Lethbridge remains split between the Tories and the Liberals. Bridget Pastoor held Lethbridge-East for the Liberals. Lethbridge-West went to the Tory Greg Weadick over Liberal Bal Boora.

In Cardston-Taber-Warner, Wildrose Alliance Leader Paul Hinman apparently lost his seat to Tory Broyce Jacobs by 39 votes. I'd expect a recount at this point, but only a reversal of the results could save Hinman's leadership in his now seatless party.

For the Alberta Greens, their big hope in Lacombe-Ponoka wasn't able to overcome Tory Ray Prins. In the end, Green Joe Anglin netted 22% of the vote to Prins 58%.

What's next?

Well, congratulations to everyone who ran, volunteered, and voted in this election. Democracy only works if citizens participate, and we now have to figure out how to get that 59% of voters to opt-in to the democratic system (in its current or a different form).

Tomorrow, I'm going to be posting on what the results mean for each of Alberta's political parties.

Monday, March 03, 2008

"from time to time we should disempower them."

Former Education Minister David King has a great titled Democracy: The Unfinished Revolution this month's edition of Alberta Views Magazine - if you haven't already picked up a copy, you should. Here's the quote:

"Government does not empower citizens, and the government that suggests it does is arrogant and ignorant. Citizens empower government, and citizens can disempower governments. From time to time we should disempower them."
- David King, PC MLA Edmonton-Highlands (1971-1986)

i voted. so should you, alberta.

Well, I'm back from voting for Tim Vant in Edmonton-Strathcona! Voting feels good. I wish I could vote every day. :-)

I might try to do some liveblogging tonight, but I'm going to be busy getting out the vote for
Kevin Taft in Edmonton-Riverview and Sandeep Dhir in Edmonton-Manning so it might be later tonight until I make another appearance. Until then, check the CBC Alberta Votes 2008 website for election updates. Also, Alberta: Get Rich or Die Trying has a good run down of some of the blog coverage on today's election.

After helping get the vote out in Edmonton-Riverview and Edmonton-Manning, I'm going to be heading down to the CBC election night gala at the Axis Cafe downtown before heading to the Alberta Liberal election night party at the Mayfield Inn in Northwest Edmonton. If you see me around, say hi.

I wanted to give a quick shout out to Leslie Penny in Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock. Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock is my family's constituency and is where Penny is facing a incredibly uphill battle against long-time Tory Ken Kowalski's Tammany Hall machine as Kowalski is running for his ninth term as MLA. There wouldn't be a better message that Albertans could send to this 37-year old Tory government than sending them and the Boss Hogg of Alberta politics packing.

If you don't know where to vote, find out where to vote here.

If you haven't already, take a look at your local candidates here.

hey alberta! get out and vote!

The polls have opened in Alberta's 2008 Provincial election and I'm off to go and vote at my polling station at Allendale School in Edmonton-Strathcona. The polls will be open until 8:00 p.m. tonight, so make sure to get out and vote!

Find out where to vote here.

If you haven't already, take a look at your local candidates here.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

alberta election 2008: what to watch for in calgary on election day.

With the election polls opening in less than 8 hours, here's a look at some of the Calgary races that I will be keeping an eye on after the polls close tomorrow night.


The big talk of the campaign has largely been "what's happening in Calgary?" With the departure of Ralph Klein last year, Calgarians found themselves on the outside under Ed Stelmach's Tories, which as led to the real proposition that Alberta Liberal gains are on the horizon in this city (building on their three MLAs elected in 2004 and the election of Craig Cheffins in the June 2007 Calgary-Elbow by-election).

Though the Tories' 37-year advantage in political organizing in Calgary shouldn't be underestimated, the Alberta Liberals have probably put together their most impressive list of Calgary candidates since Harper Prowse in 1955 - in 2008 the list includes Kent Hehr, Beth Gignac, Mike Robinson, Cathie Williams, Greg Flanagan, Laura Shutiak, and Michael Embaie among others. This obviously doesn't equal an automatic win for these candidates, but it does say a lot about the changing political environment in this city that a political party other than the ruling Tories were able to recruit strong local candidates.

Calgary becoming a competitive political environment on the provincial level is exciting, but I'm going to remain cautiously optimistic and wait for Calgarians to surprise me tomorrow.

Constituencies I will be keeping an eye on will be Calgary-Bow, Calgary-Buffalo, Calgary-Currie, Calgary-Egmont, Calgary-Elbow, Calgary-Fish Creek, Calgary-Foothills, Calgary-Glenmore, Calgary-McCall, Calgary-Montrose, Calgary-Mountain View, Calgary-North Hill, Calgary-North West, Calgary-Varsity, and Calgary-West.

alberta election 2008: lethbridge and the rural wildcards.

With the election polls opening in less than 8 hours, here's a look at some of the races outside of Calgary and Edmonton that I will be keeping an eye on after the polls close tomorrow night.


Both Lethbridge-East and Lethbridge-West could be close tomorrow night. I'm giving Alberta Liberal MLA Bridget Pastoor the edge over Tory Jason Herasemluk in Lethbridge-East (Lethbridge-East has been held by the Liberals since 1993), but Lethbridge-West is a more open race with Tory MLA Clint Dunford's retirement. Bal Boora and Greg Weadick have been duking it out in Lethbridge-West and it could go either way. Look for the Wildrose Alliance to potentially play the role of spoiler in these races.

Rural Wild Cards

I expect most of rural Alberta to stay coloured in various shades of blue tomorrow night, but that doesn't mean there aren't interesting races outside Edmonton, Calgary, and Lethbridge!

As I've mentioned before, I'm really looking forward to see how Alberta Green candidate Joe Anglin does in Lacombe-Ponoka against Tory Ray Prins. Anglin is a strong candidate and has excellent local name recognition. It would be great to see a Green be elected to the Alberta Legislature, and after Bill 46 and the AEUB spy scandal, Anglin would be a much stronger advocate for the region than backbencher Prins.

It would be nice to see Wildrose Alliance Leader Paul Hinman get re-elected in Cardston-Taber-Warner, but it could be close as Hinman is facing off against former Tory MLA Broyce Jacobs. Peace River and Dunvegan-Central Peace are on my radar for potential pickups for the Wildrose Alliance. If they are going to pick up seats, I think it's likely that it will be in the northwest corner of Alberta rather than the south. A backlash against the proposed nuclear power plant in the Peace Country manifest itself into a win or a strong showing for the Wildrose Alliance in these two northwestern constituencies against what could be described as two weak cabinet ministers (Frank Oberle and Hector Goudreau).

Other potentially interesting races I'm going to be keeping an eye on include Red Deer-South, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, Medicine Hat, West Yellowhead, and Whitecourt-St. Anne.

alberta election 2008: what to watch for in edmonton on election day.

With the election polls opening in less than 8 hours, here's a look at some of the Edmonton and area races that I will be keeping an eye on after the polls close tomorrow night.

Edmonton & Area

Over the course of the past 28 days, I've had many Tories tell me that they expect their party to gain a large number of seats in Edmonton in order to offset expected gains they expect Kevin Taft's Alberta Liberals to make in Calgary. The main argument from my Tory friends seems to be:
1) Because Ed Stelmach from Vegreville, Edmontonians will vote Conservative.
2) Because his name is "Ed," Edmontonians will vote vote Conservative.
3) Because Ed Stelmach isn't popular in Calgary, Edmontonians will vote Conservative.
I really shouldn't have to explain why these are pretty weak arguments. Though I think that my Tory friends sounded a bit optimistic, I have no reason to believe that Edmonton is any less competitive than it has been in past elections - the capital city has had a competitive political environment on the provincial level since 1986 (with the exception of 1993).

Currently, the Alberta Liberals hold a plurality of Edmonton's seats and though I can't see them being at risk of losing much ground in Edmonton there are some obvious competitive races between the Liberals and Tories that could go to either party. My list of competitive races between the Liberals and Tories includes Edmonton-Castle Downs, Edmonton-Decore, Edmonton-Ellerslie, Edmonton-Manning, Edmonton-Meadowlark, Edmonton-Mill Creek, Edmonton-Whitemud. In the Edmonton area, St. Albert, Sherwood Park, and Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert also look like they could be in play tomorrow night.

Edmonton is also the only place in Alberta where the New Democrats could be considered electorally relevant. Look for them to concentrate their energies on trying to hold on to their current four seats. Though I tend to believe that Edmonton-Calder, Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood, and Edmonton-Strathcona will stay New Democrat this go around, I believe that Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview is in play with both Alberta Liberal Dawit Isaac and Tory Tony Vandermeer running strong campaigns against Ray Martin. The New Democrats have pockets of support in other Edmonton constituencies where they could play the roll of spoiler in tight races between the Alberta Liberals and Tories, but I have a hard time seeing them build on the four seats they won in 2004.