Thursday, February 21, 2008


2008 Alberta General Election Debate

Tonight was the leaders' debate for the 2008 general election. I saw another ad for Elections Alberta tonight - I think it's the second time I've seen it. While I applaud their efforts to encourage people to vote, I can't help but notice that there are more ads for the Junos Fan's Choice Award (sponsored by Doritos!) than there are for the provincial election. Just watch, the Junos will probably get better voter turnout. Anyway, this is just another cynical digression from your trusty blogger.

The real meat of this post is a discussion of the debate. I didn't see any real zingers get tossed out there tonight, but I couldn't help but notice that Ed Stelmach used every tactic in the Tory playbook this evening:

Call your opponents socialists

In Alberta, "socialist" and "liberal" are derogatory terms. Stelmach was quick on the trigger for these ones; I think he unloaded the s-word at Mason and Taft during the first open debating session.

Play the experience card

Some might call 37 years of one party rule stagnant; the PCs call it experience (which one it truly is I'll leave as an exercise for the reader). In nearly every statement and nearly every rebuttal, he was emphasizing that he is the premier now, and (presumably in his opinion) is better suited for the job because he's already there.

Don't answer the question

Throughout this writ period, Stelmach has been responding to environmental protesters with a threat that Alberta would shed some 335,000 jobs if aggressive environmental measures were put in place. When asked where that number came from, he completely sidestepped the question and went on about some fuzzy commitment to the environment. The other leaders were no better - in their rebuttals they didn't even call him on it. Talk about toothless!

Finally, we have the granddaddy of them all:

Remind Albertans that the federal Liberals are out to take Alberta's money

I'm no fan of the Liberal Party of Canada, but I find this tactic to be disgusting and yet another example of Alberta's juvenile political culture. It worked for Ralph, and Ed's hoping it will work for him. There's nothing that sends voters running to the PCs faster than raising the spectre of a federal Liberal resource grab (and they're not even the government!). The fact that they share a name with a political opponent at the provincial level doesn't hurt either.

An honourable mention goes to the Wildrose Alliance, who took this one from the PC playbook:

Equalization steals Alberta's resource revenue

We also saw (from Paul Hinman, I believe) another distorted description of the federal equalization program. Alberta politicians (and to be fair, some politicians in other provinces do this too) like to characterize equalization as a transfer from the provincial treasury (or of resource wealth). Say what you want about equalization, but it involves the redistribution of money collected from federal taxes -- the Alberta treasury (and hence resource revenue) are not tapped for the equalization program. As a "have" province, we just don't receive any equalization payments back from the feds like the "have-nots" do.

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