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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

myth-building 101.

PC MLAs Jonathan DenisDoug GriffithsRob Anderson, and Kyle Fawcett are coming out of backbenches and labelling themselves as the 'Fiscal Four.' In an interview, Anderson told the Calgary Herald:

"There's a group of people in caucus who are genuinely concerned about the state of our province's finances," said Anderson, MLA for Airdrie-Chestermere. "The basic consensus (of the group) is we need to get our spending under control and have a savings strategy. The general direction is that we need to have a strong fiscal framework, and right now that doesn't exist."

The group will use question period and members' statements-- as well as their own caucus meetings--to drive home the message. "There are others in caucus who feel as we do," he added.
It is not difficult to imagine that a significant element of the 'Fiscal Four' production is a staged exercise in PC Party myth-building as public criticism from MLAs is not normally welcomed (as former Cabinet Ministers Heather Forsyth and Guy Boutilier discovered). In September 2009, Fawcett publicly apologized and was quietly penalized for pointing out the obvious after his party's high-profile candidate was thumped in a Calgary by-election. I do not doubt that these four PC MLAs picture themselves as the very models of modern fiscal conservatives, but until now they have either remained largely silent or have risen in the Assembly to praise their party's fiscal leadershipI have been told that a similar tactic of external criticism only after internal permission was adopted by the Deep-Six, of which Premier Ed Stelmach was a member.

Premier Stelmach told delegates at the recent PC annual general meeting that his biggest challenge was the not the economy, health care, the environment, or the budget, but the media. A lot of recent media attention has been generated around the Wildrose Alliance, who have been the main beneficiary of the PCs recent drop in public support, and this past weekend leader Danielle Smith spoke to a sold out crowd of 200 Calgary oil and gas sector heavyweights at a breakfast organized by FirstEnergy Capital. Last Friday, Liberal leader David Swann hosted a Calgary fundraiser that drew over 530 attendees (note: that is a lot for a Liberal event in Calgary).

With the internal resources available to them, the 'Fiscal Four' have the potential to protect Premier Stelmach by shifting media headlines away from criticism by the opposition parties and his more vocal external critics.


Anonymous said...

Great Post, Dave. Keep on debunking the spin!

Jeff J. said...

Dave, the Premier never said that the media was the biggest issue facing him. He has been very consistent in his messaging that it is the economy.

You are referring to a question from a delegate to the Premier that asked him how he can better get the Gov't message out when the media continues to twist his words and misinform Albertans..

You seem to be doing exactly what this question referenced.

You can do better Dave, no need to make stuff up like this.

daveberta said...

Jeff J, Thanks for the comment. I don't imagine that it is his biggest issue, but he was quoted as saying that it was his biggest challenge:

"This is the biggest challenge we're facing as a government. I really do feel that the policies we have are the right ones for Alberta, but it's difficult to get it through the present media that's available to us."

I will give him the benefit of the doubt that he may have been misquoted or misinterpreted, because, frankly, Premier Stelmach has never a great communicator by any stretch of the imagination.

Midge said...

Let's see how the "fiscal 4" vote - Bill 50 debate and second reading is coming next week. Talk about unnecessary spending!!

Anonymous said...

Danielle Smith spoke to the Canadian Heavy Oil Association this morning. It was their biggest turnout - nearly 400 in attendance.

Calgary Patriot said...

Danielle Smith is going to run against Fawcett in Calgary North Hill. She should print out copies of this quote from Fawcett and mail it out to voters in that district:

Our Premier is a man of extraordinary vision, someone who fails to fall into the trap of regressive thinking during challenging times. He is a steady hand at the wheel of the ship in turbulent times. When others retreat, he has the optimism to search for the light at the end of the tunnel, the beacon of hope that all Albertans aspire to. He has the dogged determination to push forward to establish this province’s place in the new world paradigm when the negativity of others is enough to stop progress dead in its tracks. (Kyle Fawcett, February 2009)

Rutherford said...

Like the Deep Six and the Snack Pack, they sound like more of a social club for young male backbenchers than a political alliance.

Jeff J. said...

I appreciate the clarification Dave. I wasn't trying to demean or insult you in any way.

Thanks for the post.

Anonymous said...

The Fiscal Four would be much cooler if they had superhero (or is it supervillain?) costumes and secret identities.

Anonymous said...

Who is Jonathan Denis' secret identity?

Anonymous said...

I hear the WAP is running with the advert tagline: "The Wild Rose Alliance, bought to you by angry Calgary energy millionaires" (no misprint).

Interesting. Would I just be too cynical if I pointed out that if the PC's were given a sponsored breakfast by FirstEnergy, they would be reviled as the party of Big Oil? Or that we don't have a clue as to who donated even a dollar to Smith's leadership campaign, or to that of her two challengers. Their excuse "our donors are afraid of reprisals from the big bad PCs" is pretty lame.

Dave's been giving the WAP quite the break given his personal political leanings don't align with theirs much. Excellent example of the maxim: "the enemy of my enemy is my friend".

Curious to know what their plans are for post-secondary funding given that they are creating the impression they could eliminate a several billion dollar deficit quite easily.

Anonymous said...

Ed Stelmach blames the Media. I blame Daveberta.

Anonymous said...

Definitely orchestrated, particularly given the recent smackdown of Fawcett. The myth is that PC's allow genuine, public dissent and fiscal hawks find a home. More cleverly branded than the province too...for free.

Hopefully public servants won't have to write their questions and statements for them.

George said...

Why are the Liberals leaving the job of opposition to the Tories?

Looking forward to hearing Denis critique Energy in his new role. Way to earn the respect of the department.

Anonymous said...

Daveberta will start criticizing the fiscal 4 for being hyperpartisans and destroying democracy and stunting civic engagement.

If only the the Liberals were competent in their partisan opposition role. It is an official role afterall, one they get public funds to carry out.

amw said...

The whole 'tough economy' and 'fiscal restraint' rhetoric is about to hit the core services we as Albertans depend on. It is going to impact Education, a basic right of our children.

As a member of my son's school council, I was recently invited to attend a "Town Hall" session next week on setting priorities during ‘fiscal cutbacks’. The invite, in part, says:

The purpose of the evening is to engage participants in identifying public values about educational
outcomes that will assist the Board in making difficult decisions in a climate of fiscal cutbacks.
Trustees are looking for a good turnout to provide a broad cross-section of views.

Our committee expressed some strong feelings about being asked to participate in this process under this pretext. We feel that the funding for public education is not something that is negotiated in years that the gov’t decides it can’t balance the books, but rather a right and expectation that we as tax-payers have living in this province o’ plenty.

Cutting back on optional programs or grandiose building schemes is one thing, hacking our core health and education services is quite another.

What is particularly enraging about this whole scene is the widely accepted fact that energy prices will rebound and we will be in surplus again within 2 years. Between now and then this government has real potential to disrupt critical services -- all for the benefit of Stelmach's own political gain and games.

SD said...

Hey Dave,

I just wanted to emphasize Jeff J's point about the context of the Premier's question to which he responded:

"This is the biggest challenge we're facing as a government. I really do feel that the policies we have are the right ones for Alberta, but it's difficult to get it through the present media that's available to us."

The point he was making is communicating through the main stream media has been a struggle for his government and he is looking to be more creative in the methods he uses to explain policies, which I think we both agree is a good thing. His issue was not with the media itself, but with communication in general. You rightly point out that this has not been a strong suit of the government and I think it is positive that the Premier recognizes a need for change.

I guess I'm a little disappointed that you revile the sort of political gamesmanship that dominates politics - primarily in Ottawa - but don't see it as hypocritical to then draw the conclusion that the Premier has somehow put the economy, health care, and the environment on the back-burner while he deals with "the media". It could be said that this is the same sort of manipulation of the facts to achieve a political end.

Anonymous said...

The Deep 6 sounds like something you would pay a whore a couple bills an hour to do to you.

Anonymous said...

the fisting 4 could also be included with that last comment.

Jarrett Leinweber said...

What about Brett Wilson and the First Energy support?

I've met him once playing hockey and from what I've read about his professional achievements, philanthropy and quite open life story about his changing life moment as a result of cancer recovery and family.

I would be very interested in having someone like this enter the public debate and hearing what he has to say. Well educated, well spoken!

Unknown said...

In reference to amw's comment, I totally agree, but who's to say that the traditional energy resource prices are going to go up in 2 years and if they do, inflation or collapse of the US dollar may make it irrelevant. Growth projections are notoriously flawed. It seems the government is governing in the tradition that this is Next Year Country.

There are serious people in the world that are projecting the real possibility that in 30 years fossil energy sources won't be necessary. (Do you really think that China and India want to follow the US example and become totally dependent on foreign sources of fossil fuel?)

The focus is being misdirected to the sympton, which is deficit spending. It would be interesting to know how much of this deficit spending is to compensate for the years of neglect suffered by our infrastructure in the name of debt reduction. You might want to take a look at the physical condition of some of our schools and dams.

There really has not been a serious long range plan to develop a sustainable and self renewing economy for quite some time. The province has been running on luck. Remember that our previous premier, bless his heart, preferred to spend time at a casino than attend a meeting with other first ministers.

If the Wildrose economic position is just to retreat to depending on the traditional energy sector, crossing their fingers that the price of oil and gas will go up, and in the meantime cut core services, the PCs have already done that. Are there really any substantive differences between the Wildrose Alliance and the PCs or is it just decoration?

Anonymous said...

Does the support from Brett Wilson's First Energy mean that we're likely to see Wilson run as a Wildrose Alliance candidate rather than for the leadership of the PCs as was originally rumoured?

calgary clipper said...

Parents who are invited to open houses to explore how their school can do more with less should also expect/insist that a high ranking person from the Education Ministry be present to demonstrate how Alberta Education is also slashing their budget.

These are the faceless bureaucrats who spend $millions to bring in educational changes - to often for the sake of change itself that is based on fads taking place someplace else in the world or some theory emanating in the halls of higher learning.