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Monday, August 24, 2009

where's stelmo?

Perhaps he's on summer vacation, or maybe he has entered a Bill 44 induced vow of silence, but if there is one comment I have consistently heard from my politically interested friends over the summer months, and more recently from other bloggers, it has been: Where is Premier Ed Stelmach?

Over the summer, a number of important issues have emerged that are shaping Alberta, but Premier Stelmach has been absent from the important debates that have been occurring at BBQs and picnics across the province. Among the conversations I've been having, here are a couple of issues where people have noticed Stelmach's absence:

Children's Services

Resisting the calls for her resignation after public controversy from within the Department of Children's Services and the recent conviction of a director of child services, Premier Stelmach remains silent as Children's Services Minister Janis Tarchuk remains in her job. In a recent article by Kevin Libin, Keith Brownsey pointed out:

“Where’s the responsibility from the Minister for the actions in her department? That’s the key to the parliamentary system,” Mr. Brownsey says. “At the federal level this Minister would have been gone and in any other province she would be gone. But not here in Alberta.”
Stelmach had no trouble firing an annoying backbencher when he became a slight inconvenience, so why is our Premier MIA when it comes to the integrity of government and the accountability of Cabinet Ministers?

Health Care

As Alberta Health Services (AHS) President/CEO Dr. Stephen Duckett continues his plans to reform and confront a $1 billion deficit in government health care spending, Stelmach remains silent.

The recent decision to close beds at the Alberta Hospital is meeting fierce opposition from Doctors, who fear that mentally ill patients will simply end up living on the streets of Edmonton. When Edmonton Journal journalist Archie McLean asked an AHS spokesperson about the government's decision, he was rebuffed and was told that even though taxpayers pay 100% of the AHS budget and that it is administered by a government appointed board, it is a separate entity from the government. As the elected government, led by Premier Stelmach, is essentially responsible for AHS, isn't every AHS decision a government decision?


The Camrose Canadian, a Sun Media newspaper, recently called out Stelmach for not showing enough public support for Alberta's Pork Industry, which has taken a hit since the 'Swine Flu' hit headlines. This is quite the shocking critique for our first Premier from rural Alberta in 36 years:
Civic, provincial and federal representatives will line up with producers and the general public to get their fill of porcine heaven, but Stelmach has declined his invitation. Perhaps the two dimensional premier should take a page from his predecessor’s playbook, show a little leadership for a change, and saddle up to the grill.
Calgary-Glenmore by-election

After calling a by-election in Calgary-Glenmore, bloggers and news media have pointed out that Stelmach is nowhere to be seen. Even PC candidate Diane Colley-Urquhart didn't mentioned Stelmach once in a recent 10 minute interview with CTV Calgary.

Recent polls have shown that Stelmach's approval ratings among Calgarians sits around a low 34%, twelve points below his 46% disapproval rating among Calgarians. During the 2007 by-election in Calgary-Elbow, PC candidate Brian Heninger reacted to a similarly hostile atmosphere by threatening to choke Stelmach. It is unknown whether Colley-Urquhart will adopt a similar tactic.


Jane Morgan said...

Great post, thanks for the link and the reminder of the choking line. Classic.

Diane is too busy taking the plate numbers of our vehicles and following my hubby around.

Anonymous said...

In the strange political world called Alberta, 46% disapproval seems to translate to a tacit, or autonomic 54% approval at the polls, enough for a landslide victory as usual. People don't need to approve of the government to robotically shuffle out and vote PC.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Jane. Shouldn't you be doing what the WAP pays you to do (they do pay you, right?) instead of telling lies on blogs? Are your duties at WAP and CSI so un-taxing that you surf the net all day? Cory may wish women followed him around, but those of us who have met him all know it's unlikely. Ed is probably busy being Premier, but he'll drop in on Glenmore long enough to wax your asses, I'm sure.

Dave, nice pic! Nice pun. Glad to see that you're keeping your vow of non-hyper-partisanship ;-)

Gauntlet said...

Just for the record, the last time that a federal government minister was removed from cabinet in this country for something that happened in their ministry, that they themselves did not do, was exactly never.

Ministerial Accountability may be a pillar of our parliamentary system, but it's a myth.

Anonymous said...

Hinman's line about "if only people hadn't have given their second choice to Stelmach" rings false. On the final ballot for the PC leadership, I seem to recall Stelmach leading the other two (Morton and Dinning) even before the second choice was factored in.

Sure he was ranked third on the first ballot, but so what? That was just an exercise in eliminating all of the also-rans.

Or am I remembering it wrong?

True Blue Alberta said...

Maybe he's hiding from his deficit?

Alberta deficit expected to balloon, could hit $8B

By Renata D’Aliesio,Calgary Herald August 24, 2009 6:58 AM

Premier Ed Stelmach said Friday the recession has taken a more severe toll on jobs than expected, as the province's unemployment rate has rapidly escalated to a level not seen in more than a decade.

Premier Ed Stelmach said Friday the recession has taken a more severe toll on jobs than expected, as the province's unemployment rate has rapidly escalated to a level not seen in more than a decade.
Photograph by: Lorraine Hjalte, Calgary Herald

CALGARY — Albertans should brace this week for a sea of red ink, as several political and economic observers expect the provincial government’s already record-high deficit will expand by billions of dollars.

Analysts predict the province’s $4.7 billion shortfall will rise to a range of $6 billion to $8 billion when the government releases its first-quarter fiscal update, slated for Wednesday.

This bleak news isn’t expected to improve any time soon. While some aspects of Alberta’s economy are showing signs of recovery, a rebound for government coffers is nowhere in sight, particularly with natural gas prices hitting a seven-year low last week and the Canadian dollar soaring, noted Jack Mintz, head of the University of Calgary’s school of public policy.

“The deficit will be much bigger than they anticipated and the question is . . . how they’re going to deal with it?” Mintz said. “I think we’ve bottomed out worldwide from this very difficult situation, but it’s going to take time.

“The economic picture for the province will probably be somewhat weak, I would say, at least for the next two years, potentially going into a third.”

In the meantime, tough decisions loom for the government of Premier Ed Stelmach as the province anticipates revenues will fall significantly short for four straight years.

Stelmach, who has acknowledged the deficit will be higher than $4.7 billion but hasn’t said by how much, has ruled out raising taxes or introducing new ones.

Instead, the province has warned cuts to public sector jobs and government programs will be necessary. Although the government has roughly $16 billion worth of savings to cover much of its red ink, $2 billion is already spoken for to help the energy industry develop technology to capture and store its growing greenhouse gas emissions.

Alberta’s massive shortfall is a stark contrast to last year’s buoyant outlook. Then, the Alberta government had a long line of suitors seeking a piece of its projected $8.5 billion surplus. But that record-matching surplus never materialized, as financial markets collapsed, oil and gas prices plunged, and a global recession extinguished the province’s economic boom.

After several provincial governments recently announced their deficits will be worse than expected, Roger Gibbins, president of the Canada West Foundation, expects Albertans won’t be shocked by Wednesday’s grim tally.

Gibbins is optimistic about the province’s long-term economic outlook and suggests the government can ride out a short-term wave of deficits. He cautions that deep government cuts could stall Alberta’s recovery.

“My own inclination is to rely on deficit spending in the short term, partly because governments are a big contributor to the rebound of the provincial economy,” Gibbins said.

“If governments themselves begin to cut back, then it has a further negative impact on employment and a lot of other things in the province.”

Anonymous said...

Anon at 10:41 - you're right. He had the most first-choice votes on the second ballot.

Anonymous said...

I was right, Stelmach was the leader with the most "first choice" votes on the final ballot, even before you counted second choice marks.

So Paul Hinman is lying to people. Shocker.

Anonymous said...

1st Bill 44? Now a $8.5 billion deficit? I know how I'm voting at the Leadership Review in the fall.

Edmonton-McClung PC member

Anonymous said...

We are Canada's California.

Derrick Jacobson said...

I love all the useless rant about the WRA the anonymous posts leave, it must really be hard for them right now to have no good points to bring up about their PC party and leader.
Great post Dave and whether or not he was a first choice is irrelevent. He will again be shocked Wednesday when the fiscal update is out.No different than when the unemployment numbers and the last fiscal update was released.
Fotunately he can not hide forever and will be held to answer the difficult question of how we go from a 8 Billion surplus to a 8 Billion deficit. $16 Billion out on the budget, and people say I need to go back to school.

Anonymous said...

Your writing suggests whoever these people are, they're not wrong.

Anonymous said...

The guy can't take a couple of weeks off from active duty? Ed's schedule makes his predecessor looks like he worked part-time.

As for so-called Alberta Altruist's: "I love all the useless rant about the WRA the anonymous posts leave...", excellent illustration of the pot calling out the kettle...

Colin said...

"The guy can't take a couple of weeks off from active duty? Ed's schedule makes his predecessor looks like he worked part-time."

Yes he can. Didn't he take the entire three months of summer off?

Anonymous said...

Ken Chapman has been covering the recent contempt conviction of the Alberta Director of Child Welfare with details you are not likely to read in any newspaper, check it out here:

Anonymous said...

Okay this was a pretty good post. I agree with some of it, some of it I don't. But what's ridiculous is the red "Avalon Roberts" advertisement posted at the end of CTV. And this blogger says he's not partisan?

What a complete farse.

Anonymous said...

16 comments and still no one is defending Stelmach.

Anonymous said...

You forget that people point out that he's a "hard worker." Doesn't know what he's doing, but he's working hard at it. Same goes for his handful (or more) of completely incompetent cabinet ministers.

He's been busy chanelling his own bad self from 1995, getting ready to slash public spending to make up for his government's complete inability to plan and spend rationally over the previous 5 years. Now he's dumped all these targeted endowments into a big "sustainability slush fund" to cover his fiscal ass. Well, partially cover. And no new taxes on his watch - no, Ed, you wouldn't want to actually pay your bills. Not when you can hope for another rogue petro wave to come ashore and make everything ok again. How an honest fiscal conservative can actually look at the record of this government in recent years and defend voting for it is beyond me. Good thing he gave himself and his cronies a massive raise. Don't expect that to get cut back; you can't get this kind of talent on the cheap you know. Better to go after the civil servants, doctors, nurses, etc.

Too bad we don't have an opposition that knows what it's doing. I think we could use some good hyper partisanship about now.

Manuel Hapsburg von Beaverhousen said...

Swann/Stelmach....Swann/Stelmach...pretty disturbing choice!

Danielle Smith is where it's at, people. Even if you despise WAP's neo-draconian social policies, take out a membership and make sure Danielle gets in. She'll turn WAP (or it's new incarnation) into our saving grace. Let's face it, when 7/8 of WAP members discover that a woman is leading the party and not at home cooking and taking care of the kids, they'll dump their memberships.

Anonymous said...

Methinks daveberta's looking for attention again.

Colin, the Legislature not being in session does not equate to time off. Ask any elected member, federal or provincial.

Newsflash: looks like U.S. deficit estimate being upped again. Over $1 trillion (with a "t"). Second year running. B.C.'s deficit increasing by factor of 4 at least. Even Sasky, with its potash money, is going in the hole (before pulling money out of its stabiliation fund). Quebec, whom some advocate as a scene of relative stability, has a debt/GDP ratio of 57% vs 1.9% for AB (next best is BC at 16%). Let's have some context here.

Given the ideological bent of the writer of this blog, I think it is safe to assume most readers are of a counter-cyclical spending bent. In a down cycle, you get a recession. In an upcycle, you have a surplus. We can try to truncate the upsides and downsides, but you'll never eliminate them entirely.

People are free to criticize their gov'ts, that is what makes Western democracies great. But there is no point in ignoring fiscal reality, or pretending an extra few billion of savings would make it all better.

Anonymous said...

7 years ago gas was this cheap and oil was half the price - and we still had budget surpluses.

Saskatchewan is able to balance its books today.

And "free-enterprose" Alberta has the highest per capita government spending in Canada. More than Ontario. More than anyone else.

This demonstrates clear incompetence regardless of the economic circumstances.

Stelmach has no plan. He cannot even articulate a plan if he had one. He reminds me of the failure, Stephane Dion who got punted a few short months ago. Stelmach is facing the same outcome in November. He is going to lose Calgary Glenmore and it is going to be a very, very embarassing loss.

Anonymous said...

I'll defend Stelmach. No one can honestly say that the world economic collapse was the fault of any Canadian or was foreseen. Nor was $3/mcf gas foreseen.

Glad we saved in the good times and can draw on it now.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 8;59 pm, Alberta is basing its revenues on commodities which are known to be cyclic. Have we learned nothing at all since the last price crash? And the one before that? And the one before that? And the next one that is bound to ocur again? Why was there no plan in place for this volatility?

Let me say again, 7 years ago we were running surpluses with ng at $3 and oil at $30. We were fine then, and yet now we are running record deficits? Government has no respect for volatile revenues.

Saskatchewan is also a resource based economy. Oil, gas, potash and uranium prices have also crashed just as hard for them. And they still have a surplus.

I would like to contract out all Alberta government legislative and executive powers to Brad Wall. Let Saskatchewan make all our decisions for us and just fire everyone in the Alberta legislature.

Anonymous said...

From the Ipsos-Reid website:

"With less than a month to go before voters in Calgary-Glenmore choose a new MLA in a provincial by-election, an Ipsos Reid/Global Calgary poll shows support for the Progressive Conservatives holding steady among Calgary residents. The current party standings show the PCs out front at 43% support, followed by the Liberal Party at 23%, Wildrose Alliance at 11% and New Democrats at 5%. Nearly two-in-ten (18%) Calgary residents say they would support some other party if a provincial election were to happen tomorrow."

By the way, those numbers are essentially unchanged from the election for the PCs and the WAP, with the Libs down 9 per cent.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic news!

Derrick Jacobson said...

Anon 8:59
"Nor was $3/mcf gas foreseen"

You are not correct in this. When the budget was produced $5.50/GJL was the number presented. Immediately they were informed that this was way too high. Natural gas is a commodity and the storage levels do not fill up overnight. Everyone in the industry seen the prolific shale plays and the 2000 rigs drilling in the US, the storage levels above average, and the steady price decline except for the GOA. If all of my money was invested in one or two commodities I would know them well.
Nice try, but no defending Ed on this one.

Anonymous said...

AA, perhaps you are correct, though I doubt it. I certainly doubt "everyone in the industry seen (sic)..." In fact, AJM Petroleum Consultants was forecasting 2009 prices of around $6.75 in December 2008 and was still over $4.50 by March 2009. The US Energy Information Agency was forecasting $4.67 in March. Maybe you're just smarter than real energy economists. Btw, AA, I know that your type loves to point at BC and SK as the places where they are so much better off than we are. BC is forecasting a deficit of $3 billion this year, which will boost it's net debt to $30 billion. SK's projected surplus has dived from $424 million to $50 million (and they still have a surplus only because they have transferred some money from their Crown Investment Corporation, deferred capital projects and frozen travel and hiring). Their total debt at the end of 2008 was $10.5 billion. Alberta's debt - ZERO, pal, with a $17 BILLION cushion. So much for lack of planning and lack of savings. We can have fun with numbers, too.

Derrick Jacobson said...

Gee, I wonder who we is? Iris & Co.
If you are watching the US energy Information we trade on the AECO hub in Alberta. Your memory is short with all the wailing that was going on about using such a high number for your gas. You have fun with your numbers though. BTW my expertise is in the natural gas sector, not that you had to be a genius to see this price collapse.