Friday, November 22, 2013

Alberta PC's hold their convention this weekend and why Premier Redford should be worried.

"I really haven't given it any thought," Redford said Wednesday after reporters asked her about the vote coming up at the Progressive Conservative party's annual general meeting in Red Deer.

Aside from the ease which Redford seems to be able to say falsehoods like this with a straight face, which I will get into a bit later, her ridiculous statement ( it is impossible that she has not given it any thought) along with her faithful minions out in the media trying very hard to lower expectations in advance of the vote ( “So, frankly, in my mind anything in the 50s (per cent) is good, anything in the 60s is a success and anything in the 70s is absolutely a triumph.”) it is quite clear that Redford is indeed worried about the vote on her leadership and there are good reasons why she should be.

Her poll numbers with the public have been tanking ever since the election and if not for a slight uptick due in most part to the Alberta flood they would be near record low levels and the reasons why are obvious. Numerous broken promises and the fact there are few (groups or people) left in Alberta who her government has not pissed off in some way. Doctors, pharmacists, teachers, nurses, students, and public employees have all battled Redford and her government; closing the Mitchener Center and the Little Bow Continuing Care Centre in Carmangay, debt & deficits when promised surpluses and savings, obfuscating budget numbers, illegal donations to the PC party, large severances for bureaucrats and fighting FOIPs on the information after promising more transparency and the Privacy Commissioner had authorized the release, the Katz cheque, the petty partisan politics, and daily headlines about AHS being an absolute mess (in more ways than can be listed here) and what Redford's cutbacks have done in post secondary education has made her very few friends. 

But that is the general public, not the PCAA members.

Her support amongst her own party has never been that stellar; yes they united to fight and win an election, but her relationship with much of the party has been rocky from the beginning. In 2011 when Redford won the PCAA leadership vote she had the support of only 2 caucus MLAs,  one of which was herself. This changed after the first vote where Redford picked up an additional 4 from the PC caucus (today one of those 4 is now a proud card carrying member of the Wildrose), while Gary Mar had the support of 27 MLAs at the start of that race and picked up another 7 from caucus after the first ballot of a leadership race that had nearly 66,000 fewer PC members voting than during the 2006 leadership race which chose Ed Stelmach  (78,176 vs 144,289). I can write with certainty that not even all of her own MLAs will be voting in favour of her leadership in Red Deer this weekend (don't ask because I am not telling) and while that doesn't say much about how the rank and file membership will vote, it does suggest that it is not as rosy in PCAA land as Redford's team would like everyone to believe. Which might explain Redford's recent charm offensive.

While charm offensive might not be the best word, hiding the facts offensive might be a better choice, Redford has been working hard to improve her numbers. The numerous signs painted in 'pc colours' and sporting Redford's name have been popping up all over the province recently being the most obvious example but delaying or hiding reports ( AHS Q1 wait time report is now over 80 days late and the Q2 report is due in less than 10 days), the ethics ruling on Redford and the tobacco lawsuit (remember what I said about falsehoods and a straight face) and even the PCAA backing off their plan to take a cut of donation made to individual riding association, also look to have all been done to help out the premier win her leadership vote. Timing is everything as they say.

Will it work? Who knows, but when when expectations have been set low (50% +1), I suspect that she will make the threshold; although I am not sure how having up to 49.9x % of your own party voting against you could be called a victory in any sense of the word.

Although... "The leadership campaigns would begin overnight in cabinet and caucus even with a vote in the mid-60s," says one party veteran, who will not be identified for fear of banishment.

 Bonus: Alison Redford, the person who said that she has not given the PCAA leadership review "any thought", made a video for that review. 

I love the line that Albertans can "trust what we told them."   It takes a special kind of person to be able to say something like that when nearly everyone is aware of their well documented broken promises; and that person is Alison Redford who does so with out batting an eye.

Monday, November 04, 2013

CPC Convention 2013: Was the Media locked out? Not really.

The CPC 2013 convention this weekend in Calgary was nothing short of a fantastic experience. For those that believe an individual can have no effect on politics/government, you obviously have never been in a room with a thousand other people of diverse backgrounds from across the country discussing policy and setting the future course of a political party before. It is grassroots at it's finest and if you ever get the chance, I would highly recommend it. I am not going to get into the policy stuff today, (you can see those for yourself on the CPC website when it gets posted or check out Kady O'Malley's coverage here if interested) but rather I am going to discuss a favorite subject of mine, the media, and their ever continuing narrative of being locked out by the CPC.

For those that are buying into the media complaints of being locked out or as some have put it, the CPC "holding its conventions in Stalag Luft 17" ask yourself a couple of questions:

Q: What happened at the convention that was not covered by the media and you did not find out about?

To my knowledge, aside from the workshops which should be kept media free IMHO, the convention was  was well covered by the numerous press in attendance. The meat and potatoes of any convention is policy and the final plenary sessions were extremely well covered. Look no farther than Josh Wingrove's twitter feed from the weekend or as linked to above, Kady O'Malley.  And we all know the amount of coverage the PM's speech received, including the stories written on it before he had even delivered it. The fact that you know what happened at the convention is proof in itself the the media were not really locked out.

Q: Can you provide me with the name of any member of the media who could not obtain a delegate quote?

I doubt you can because the truth of the matter is that the media could and often did talk with delegates. The media was everywhere in Calgary. They were at the the only entrance to the BMO, occasionally in the foyer, always available in the hallway towards the north east end of the building, inside the hospitality suits (drunken delegates do make good sources for dirt), in Hall D at plenary, and even in my hotel elevator ( I had more CPAC people in the elevator with me at one point on Saturday than they had in Ottawa)   I myself was asked for comment by the media about 15 times over the course of the weekend, which may be higher than average due to my habit of wandering around more than most, but I don't know of any who were not approached or if they did want to offer their opinion to media, were ever unable to do so.

I wrote earlier that the workshops should be kept media free and I do believe that to be for the best. Having media in the room is not only a distraction, it makes some people very nervous knowing that what they may say on a particular policy etc may end up on the nightly news. This is really not very conducive to discussions where you want everyone to be able to voice their ideas and opinions openly and freely, which is what conventions are really all about. Delegates were NOT there for the media and really should not be bothered by them while they are trying to do their work. 

While I do see the media's point that they would like more access; of course they would as it makes their job much easier and who wouldn't want that, and I am sure they would like to sit in the PMO for meetings too but that is not very realistic. Could you imagine the chaos if the close to 300 accredited media from 60 outlets had free rein in the BMO Centre during the entire run of the convention? It would be an absolute zoo, where you could in theory have had more media in a workshop than there were delegates in the room.

Could more have been done for access? I am sure there could have been but to compare the convention to a Nazi POW camp or say that it was the way they do it in unsavory countries is not only wrong, it is just plain silly and makes them look like whiners.

Just to show that I am not all about bashing the media, I will offer up a couple of shout outs and stories from CPC13.  A shout out to Stephen Taylor ( is he media?) who I finally had the pleasure to meet in person and who gave a social media presentation at the Manning Centre. He is sort of responsible for unleashing this blog upon the world and I am grateful for the opportunity.  To the reporters that I had long talks with at the convention and in the hospitality suites, thank you all. I know we are opposite sides on the blog and on Twitter at times, but it was a pleasure meeting and speaking with you in person. I would get into more details on the hospitality suite conversations but drunken conversations between blogger/delegate and media are kept strictly off the record, including which of us were drunk! ;-)  And for that story I promised, although this may get me into trouble with the readership, I actually praised the CBC's Kady O'Malley while speaking with the Minister who was responsible for the CBC up until this past July, James Moore, much to the chagrin of bystanders. True story and she does deserve the praise for the job she does and how open she is, although somewhere in Calgary someone may be still missing a coat.