Friday, June 29, 2007


We've seen it before in business, government, and the professions. The inept and incompetent moving from one disaster of their own making, to the next - promoted all the way as a result of powerful and influential friends. Not because of competence or success in the last position held. But because of the tender loving care from people in high places, who may value loyalty to the exclusion of all other traits, or who put a premium on pedigree or social status to the exclusion of ability, record of success, or even intelligence.

The name of Robert S. McNamara comes to mind. The wunderkind Eagle Scout, Harvard MBA, and Ford Motor Company CEO who trashed the Edsel - so far so good - together with his boss LBJ, embraced the Domino Theory of third world countries going communist. The result was the build up of American forces in Vietnam, the subsequent 9 years American participation in a civil war, the millions of casualties among innocent Vietnamese, Cambodians and young Americans. Finally, there was the admission of failure. There was defeat and abandonment of the cause. His reward: President of the World Bank.

Similarly there is the career of Henry Kissinger. Harvard Scholar and Professor, National Security Advisor and Secretary of State in the Nixon and Ford Administrations, Kissinger bears the dubious distinction of being behind the bombing of Cambodia during the Viet Nam War. The direct result was the Cambodian civil war, from which the Khmer Rouge emerged victorious. The aftermath was a genocide of several million innocent Cambodians. He was behind CIA support in bringing to power General Pinochet in Chile. He actively supported the Argentina's dirty war carried out by the Military Junta. His travel is so restricted, for fear of arrest for war crimes, that for years he has traveled outside the United States only with the utmost caution. The result: a lengthy list of Corporate Directorships, including the infamous Hollinger International (where he too paid little attention to the financial statements), and an advisory capacity with George W. Bush, rendering advice on how to deal with Iraq!

More recently, we have the case of Paul Wolfowitz, the notoriously infamous neocon Deputy Secretary of Defence, who was one of the architects of the disasterous invasion of Iraq and its consequences, the greatest military misadventure in the history of the United States. His reward: like McNamara, President of the World Bank. He has since had to resign because he was caught using his influence getting his banker girlfriend a sweetheart job deal. What's next for him? A nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize?

Canada is somewhat less forgiving of real or perceived ineptitude. When John Turner failed to inspire the masses as Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, he returned to a modest private law practice, and significant corporate directorships eluded him. Equally with ex-Alberta Premier Don Getty, when he left office after a less than stellar performance as Premier. However there is the exceptional case of Premier Ed Stelmach of Alberta. Although it may sound incongruous mentioning his name in such lofty company, by Canadian standards his career should have been torpedoed as a result of his dismal performance as Infrastructure Minister, Transportation Minister and member of the Agenda and Priorities Committee in the Alberta government. Instead, the Tory rank and file rewarded him with the Party Leadership and Premiership. It will take his forthcoming fall in the next provincial election to put Ed in his rightful place of Canadian politicians who screwed up.

And in recent days we have the strange case of Tony Blair. Charming, charismatic, and bright, Blair was in the early part of his career as Prime Minister, highly popular in the country. Although his record at this early point in history appears to be somewhat pedestrian, his policies included a greater reliance on market forces, and more spending on health and education. He admirably played a significant role in the Northern Ireland Peace process.
Blair's downfall was his slavish support of the policies of George W. Bush in respect to the unwinnable Iraq war. In his country, he appeared to be a patsy or handmaiden to the widely disliked President. He embellished existing intelligence on Sadam's WMD capability, the basis of which proved to be false. He indulged in identical Bushite rhetoric in support of Britain and the United States' role in the conflict, all of which further diminished his standing in the eyes of his people, who increasingly opposed the war. In most of the Arab world he became as much of an anathema as his ally Bush. He was ultimately hounded from office by the British people and his party.
Blair's reward: an appointment as Middle East Envoy for the United Nations, approved by the European Union and Russia (one wonders how and why), and, of course, by the United States (which is quite understandable). He botched Iraq. Instead of letting him mercifully pass into history, his pals give him another chance. This time he may botch the rest of the Middle East.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


It has now sunk in to anybody with half a brain who follows Alberta politics, that Special Ed and his Vegreville Gothic Tories have a huge problem in Alberta cities. It is trite to say that Special Ed and his government of farm hands brought it on all by themselves with the spiteful and juvenile transfer of power from Alberta's cities to rural settlements and communities when he formed his first cabinet. This was the result of the Special Ed crew being bound and determined to have their day in the sun after their boy, in December, beat Calgarian Jim Dinning for the leadership of the Tory Party.

Dinning was a symbol of everything Special Ed and his gang wanted buried. He was smooth, urbane, educated, and connected to a Calgary corporate and political establishment, that had enormous influence in Provincial Governments continuously since Peter Lougheed knocked off the Socreds in 1971. In the view of Ed and his pals, the effete and pampered cities - particularly wealthy, arrogant, and oil drenched Calgary - were out.

Boy, did Special Ed and his boys really want to stick it in the cities' ear. And boy, did they. In Special Ed's first cabinet, from Edmonton, a city that boasted 1/3 of Alberta's population, there was only one cabinet Minister out of a cabinet of 18. This was down from 3. And from the detested Calgary, also having 1/3 of the population, there were 3 Ministers out of 18 - down from 7.

Special Ed and his range riders shure showed those cities who was boss.

Yep, they shure did. In 6 months time, Special Ed would see his party's popularity in freefall as well as the loss of Ralph's Klein's seat in Calgary Elbow to the Liberals.

Something had to be done. And by jiminy, Special Ed was decisive if he was anything. He had to make Calgary and Edmonton feel a part of his government again. He had to mend fences and fast. So he and the boys got together and came up with a solution. Bring a couple of Calgary ladies almost to the cabinet table by making them associate ministers, add a former Edmonton Liberal turncoat to an almost minster associate minister, and give one of the two guys with real brains in the cabinet, who happens to be from Calgary, the Deputy Premiership - a position that because of his comparative sharp intellect amongst his pygmy-like colleagues, he for all practical purposes occupies already.

So, the lucky Calgary ladies are the toothsome Cindy Ady, the new associate minister of Tourism, and the longtime silent MLA Yvonne Fritz, the new associate minister of Affordable Housing. Justice Minister Ron Stevens of Calgary Glenmore is the new Deputy Premier. On the Edmonton side, former Education Minister and Liberal turncoat, Gene Zwozdesky has now been elevated to the lofty role of associate minister of Capital Planning.

Will it turn Special Ed's luck around? Not bloody likely. The appointments are tokenism and nothing more. This was reflected last evening at Mayor Bronconnier's super fundraiser on the grounds of La Caille Restaurant in downtown Calgary. The guest list of 1700 or so was a who's who in business and professional circles at $200 bucks a pop. They were the type of people that used to be the backbone of the Tory party of the old days. As Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft and his four Calgary Liberal MLAs worked the crowd, they were greeted by friendly smiles, hearty hand shakes, and plenty of friendly advisors all around. There wasn't a Tory MLA in sight - little wonder since Bronco has been bashing them for some months now. So its got to be back to the drawing board for Special Ed. His move was precious little and already, very late.

Ominously, for Ed, it was whispered about that, alas, Fritz and Ady were not the first Calgary Tory MLAs who were offered those posts. Apparently, a few other sitting Calgary MLAs were offered the new posts before the offers were made to the lucky winners. They of course, had done the wise thing. They turned the offers down.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Shurely, we've seen enough proof that the government of Bush's pal Steve Harper is out of touch, out of synch, out of step and living in the neocon past of the dumb and dumber era of his idol, G.W. Bush. Shurely!

I mean, it had its own mini Abu Ghraib in Afghanistan. The military brass and the government turned a blind eye to the dark fate of detainees in the hands of the notorious Afghan security service. They then followed the tried and failed Nixon/Libby/Bushite policy of covering it up and lying about it. That, too, was exposed, giving rise to the tired policy of lies, bravado and obfuscation about our role in Afghanistan and how well it is doing - actions identical to those of the Bush administration in the wake of its disasterous Iraq adventure.

It grovelled to Quebec at Budget time not unlike Bush has grovelled to his rich pals at his Budget time. It blindly followed Bush in the abandonment of an even handed Middle East strategy. Like the United States under Bush, Canada under Harper could no longer be a credible broker of a peace in that tragic region, nor have any credibility for peace-keeping there, if and when it is required. The Harperites have pushed and tried to bully the Opposition and the Provinces just as Bush and his neocon cohorts, again to the detriment of his country, have pushed and tried to bully his country's former allies and the United Nations.

Harper's Conservatives have played hardball with negative advertising and personal attacks which appear to have been designed and created by the destructive mind of Dr. Evil himself, Karl Rove.

And where has it all led? All of this blind endorsement of the policies and tactics of someone who is destined to be considered as one of the great political disasters in modern history? It is turning out to be a very sad story indeed. Bush's pal Steve Harper's government's popularity has dwindled to less than 30% support of the electorate - just about the dismal level as Bush's approval ratings in the United States.

I mean, don't they get it?

Apparently not. Just as the Bushites thought they discovered nascent Republican storm troopers in the Stock Car speedways of the United States, the Harper Conservatives have decided once again that they should follow Bush's lead. And they are going one step further. They are sponsoring a car in the Canadian NASCAR circuit!

But that's not all. The car, a sleek white job with great big blue Conservative logos on its hood and side panels, is a leaded gas guzzler of the highest order. It consumes 125 gallons of the stuff in a 250 mile race. This speaks volumes on the Conservatives' commitments to emissions reductions or, for that matter, the whole environment.

And more yet. The sponsored car is driven by Pierre Bourque, operator of the website 'Bourque Newswatch,' a cyber-rag noted for its tailoring of news headlines at every opportunity to make Harper and the Conservatives look good and Dion and the Grits look bad. In other words, with this sponsorship deal, the Conservatives are paying Bourque off to get good media publicity. Another tried and true Karl Rove strategy.

So what else does Bush's pal Steve Harper and his cronys get out of all of this? Only the Canadian bubba, red-neck, and cracker vote - and they have had that sewed up for years already.

But their stated intentions seem to be ostensibly more ambitious than merely to kiss Bourque's backside and sew up the crackers. They are out to get Grit, Green and NDP middle class votes.

Listen to Immigration Minister Diane Finley's pitch at the race track yesterday when the Conservative car was introduced. "This is a way for the Conservatives to tap into that growing following," she said. "It's getting harder and harder to reach people through the regular media," she opined (she must have been tempted to add, 'particularly when Mr. Harper displays such contempt for it'). She went on, "Fewer people are watching the network news . . . fewer people are reading the newspapers. So we have to find new advertising outlets to reach them, to get our message through." She continued, "And the people who follow NASCAR are our kind of people. They're hard-working families, they're taxpayers who play by the rules. And those are the people we're targeting."

In other words, what the Harper Conservatives are saying is that since the broad middle class of Canadians don't follow the news or even read newspapers, the Conservatives will damn well induce them to support their cause by entering a car into the NASCAR circuit.

Come on. Even the NASCAR fans in the States have figured Bush out. The G.O.P. these days couldn't grow their support at a NASCAR race any more than they could in New Orleans. And if anything, Canadians are more cynical towards politicians than Americans. A politician in Canada throwing out the first ball of the season is more likely to be booed off the field than cheered. A Conservative logoed car - indeed, any car that bears the colors and logo of any Canadian political party - entered in a Canadian NASCAR race, is likely to be greeted not only by jeers and hisses, but all kinds of nefarious actions up to and including sabotage. Canadians will see it for what it is. An attempt at manipulation.

Anyway, for Stevie Harpy (with apologies to Will Ferrell) it is all for naught. Just as the American middle class has figured out Bush, so too are the Canadian people figuring out Stevie Harpy. As a result of this fiasco, look for a further reduction of Stevie's numbers.

There isn't any number of NASCAR entries that can save Bush or Harper, whether they are in the United States, Canada or Timbuktu.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


I was at the University of Calgary University Club on Thursday for a Faculty luncheon, the purpose of which was to recognize volunteers who had made a contribution to academic activities and studies at the University (which usually means those recognized helped to raise money). It was one of those sedate and proper events where behaviour is genteel and reserved, and talk is measured and civilized. Present were a few faculty members and staff, some show-case students, and several men and women from business and professional circles.

What seemed to be the preponderence of the attendees were many aging, and obviously successful business men together with their loyal and faithful (and probably more than a few long suffering) wives. This latter group, well into their twilight years, have the look of being comfortable in the knowledge that for them the rat race was well-nigh over and they are quite satisfied with where they finished in the pack. In other words, since it was taking place in Calgary, it was mostly a Conservative Party gathering. Or so it seemed.

Although the room seemed more appropriate to a cup of tea, I remained true to my principles and took instead a glass of good Merlot, and entered into conversation with several of the attendees who were milling about before the speeches. The talk turned to the by-election in Calgary Elbow where two days before the Liberals landed their first victory ever and for the first time increased their city standings in the Legislature to four members. This group of Conservatives were happy with the victory. None of them could in fact stomach Stelmach (now, there's a line!). According to them - still speaking in the measured and sober manner as befitted the occasion - he had done nothing as Premier, had neglected the cities and was not up to the job. This Taft fellow looked pretty good to them.

The talk then drifted to Stephen Harper. Whereas the name 'Stelmach' seemed to stir up little emotion amongst our group, it was quite another matter when the name 'Harper' entered the conversation. Smiles turned into frowns. What were friendly and affable eyes, turned fierce and angry. "That liar," uttered a fuming and animated, quite formidable senior lady, who a few moments ago appeared and behaved as everybody's favorite grandmother. "He's broken so many promises," uttered another gentleman. "Look how he has cuddled up to Quebec," remarked another. Another stated, "I've never been a Liberal. I've been a Progressive Conservative, I was in the Reform, the Alliance and supported the new Conservative Party and voted for Harper. But never again!" Nods of approval all around.

I suspected, although did not confirm, that their anger was probably related to Harper's senseless flip-flop on income trusts, which adversely affected retirees with some money in much greater numbers than other Canadians. They had seen a good part of their net worth disappear forever with a stroke of the Harper pen. He broke his word and squandered the support of this formerly loyal and reliable segment of the Conservative constituency. Judging from their comments - if they were representative of their class, and I suspect they were - they will not return to the fold in time for the next election. If ever.

A Decima poll released June 12, had the Grits ahead of the Conservatives, 32 to 29, with the NDP at 18 and the BQ and Greens tied at 9 each. Liberals led the Conservatives in Atlantic Canada 38 to 31, and Ontario 39 to 33. In Quebec, although the Bloc led with 38, the Grits were ahead of the Tories 23 to 16.

Take my word for it. Stevie is going down. Prime Minister Dion, ah, it has a nice sound to it, doesn't it?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


The Tories lost Calgary Elbow Tuesday night and probably for a very long time. They had held it since its inception in 1971. Not only that, over the years they tweaked it, twisted it, revised it, replotted it, and carved it, so that a solid Tory vote would always be assured for their MLA, Ralph Klein. Klein was first elected as a Tory in Calgary Elbow in 1989 and became Premier in 1993. The gerrymandering of the Riding was a work of art, really. A text-book example of political manipulation.

Despite all of this conniving, Special Ed in only six incredibly inept months of power has left the masterpiece in tatters. Elbow now belongs to Craig Cheffins, and the Alberta Liberal Party. For those who count, Cheffins' victory puts 4 seats in the Grit column in Calgary. The last time Calgary had 4 Liberal seats was in . . . . . wow! They've never had 4 seats in Calgary. Ever.

There were several reasons why Cheffins scored his victory. First of all, Cheffins was a first class candidate. He has a strong likeability factor. He was able to easily frame and discuss the issues and stayed 'on message.' The message - 'Send the Government a message.' Cheffins, his wife and many friends were tireless door campaigners. He also had a strong history of community service. Furthermore, Grits from the four corners of the city together with the three Calgary Grit MLA's elected in the general Election of 1984 and their organizations, worked the doors night after night identifying the Liberal vote. Cheffins' Election Day organization took care of the rest.

But that is only part of the story. Leader of the Alberta Liberal Party Kevin Taft has a been a workhorse since his election as Leader in the spring of 2004. By reason of the strength of his considerable intellect, his methodical step-by step building of the Party, and the consistent and effective legislative performance of he and his fellow MLA's, he must also share the kudos for the victory.

And then of course, we must not discount the effect on the election of Special Ed and his government of small-minded and vengeful rural-based Tories.

Stelmach's government has done virtually nothing since its election. There are many Tories who support this non-action. There are many neanderthals in the Tory government and caucus who still cling to the minimalist theories of the neocon movement that emerged during the Klein years. That view holds that the people of Alberta are dyed in the wool conservatives who don't want government to spend their money or interfere with their lives for good or bad under almost any circumstances.

This view was reflected by the Tories throughout their campaign right up to the last day. Ron Liepert, Minister of Education, announced that because of the soaring loonie, provincial revenues would be down and therefore people shouldn't expect much in the way of new schools. Not to be outscrimped, Minister of Advanced Education Doug Horner, said that the same held true with respect to the earlier Klein commitment of adding more spaces for students at the University of Calgary. The government , said Horner, needed more time to look at the costs of this commitment so, - again - don't expect much in the forseeable future. Wide spread support for this minimalist view amongst Calgarians may have been 5 years ago, or even 3 years ago, but not today. Too many families have been adversely impacted by a lack of what they need.

Thus, the good burghers of Elbow were looking to the government to do something - about schools, universities, hospitals, and housing. The popular Mayor Bronconnier had taken the pulse of the city and knew that was the mood. He left no opportunity go by to publicly lambaste the government for breaking a commitment to provide no-strings-attached funding for necessary capital and infrastructure projects. After all, Bronco is running for re-election in the fall. His withering attacks took their toll, as did the mindless counterattacks led by the likes of David Rodney, Tory caucus Chair and Sustainable Development and Environment Minister Ted Morton.

Stelmach's announcement that his government was going to build and pay for a new hospital in the south part of the city was widely regarded as cynical. It had been promised by the Tories for about a decade with absolutely no concrete headway having been made since that time, while the costs of the project soared. He got no points for that.

And then there was the pathetically weak public persona of Special Ed himself. He continues to be a dreary, sometimes tongue-tied communicator. He has the demeanor of a man without intensity or passion, who cannot control his bickering caucus, and who continues to stumble along without a plan.

The result: Grits took almost half of the vote - 48.8%, up by more than 12 % from their performance in 2004. The Tories took 38.14% of the vote, down by about 13.5 % since 2004. Oh yes, in 2004 more than 3000 more people voted than in this by-election. Thus, enough Tories moved to the Grits, and enough Tories, those who perhaps couldn't stomach the Grits, stayed home. The result was a Grit victory.

The Stelmach government is reeling. It seems that it is blindly staggering about, hoping vainly for a return of the old days, when Albertans voted Tory regardless of how inept and incompetent they were. Those days are gone. If there is no improvement in the government's performance - and given the talent in the caucus and the upper echelons of the public service, there is not likely to be any improvement - well, get ready to greet Premier Kevin Taft after the next general election. And you can say you heard it here first.

Friday, June 08, 2007


As the by-election in Calgary Elbow reaches its climax, Special Ed is pulling out all the stops Tory-wise. Alas, there are not too many to pull.

One was the soon-to-be-forgotten Jim Dinning. The Tories surprisingly recruited Dinning for a little campaigning in Calgary Elbow. It was 'a little campaigning' alright. A feeble, nanno-second, photo-op door knock in the riding. That was about the only good news for the Tories in Calgary Elbow in recent days.

Apparently the still battered and bleeding Dinning, who fell during Special Ed's Hayseed Revolution last December in his bid to replace Klein, still feels some loyalty to the party that gave him the boot, notwithstanding his years of loyal and faithful service to the cause. Then again, maybe it was Dinning's last hurrah and he wanted to go out with some class - an attribute largely missing among Special Ed's forces.

The Premier had the usual Tory gall to use government operating cash for a late election propaganda pamphlet. To the tune of about $200,000 of taxpayer money, the government published a mail-out to show 1.3 million Alberta households just how much loot is being spent by Special Ed's team on Calgary and Alberta generally. Tom Olsen, now one of Eddie's in-house press flacks after years of working for the Klein government by writing his Calgary Herald Legislature column, told the public that the pamphlet was really no big deal. These "non-partisan" communications went out 3 times a year to show how government is working for Albertans, said Olsen. As his nose became more extended, Special Ed's Pinnochio said blithely, "Its got nothing to do with by-elections."

The Premier continued his campaigning by resorting to another traditional Tory election goodie - hospitals. He announced - for the fourth time - that the Tory government would pay for the new hospital in the south part of the city.
The construction of this hospital has a depressing, boring and irksome history. Back in 1998 when Ralph was in the midst of his deficit and debt reduction mayhem, blowing-up and closing down hospitals, he said that the hospital should be built 'fairly quickly.' In 2004 he presided over a ground breaking ceremony. In 2005, Ralph's government promised to pay the 500 million or so cost of it. Just 3 months ago in March, Special Ed promised to pay the full shot of 900 million. And now, Ed says once again that his government will pay the full cost - which now stands at $1.25 billion. He also says that it will be complete by 2011, 13 years after Ralph said it should be built 'fairly quickly.' And he is using this commitment on the by-election hustings in Calgary Elbow to attract votes. Strange, you say? Yes, indeed, strange! And stranger still, if the good burghers of Calgary Elbow fall for it.

In the meantime, uber-mountaineer and now Tory caucus chair, David Rodney continues to pummel away at Mayor Bronco. The two-time Everest conqueror told outstanding Calgary Sun columnist Bill Kaufmann during an interview that when people meet Special Ed, "they're instantly won over." About Bronco he opined that the Mayor was causing Tory approval ratings to go down because he wasn't grateful enough or obedient to the Tories. He also said that the Mayor's behaviour was such that he, Rodney, was having a hard time having a professional relationship with him - i.e. Bronco is unprofessional. One wonders if Rodney's personal attacks on a popular Mayor during a crucial by-election might be a manifestation of some high altitude vascular accident in his brain.

The week ended with Ed's neocon Sustainable Resource Development Minister, Ted Morton and Education Minister Ron Leipert making matters much worse. Morton revved up the battle with Bronco with a speech in Banff to some municipal leaders. Morton had the temerity to say that "Calgary by itself is a good, but not a great city." The Mayor, once again livid with righteous indignation, replied that Morton ". . . stood up there and ripped our city. . . . Calgary is a great city and I am offended." Of course, Morton could not leave the matter rest. He responded, "This shows the source of a lot of these polemics is a mayor who is far too thin-skinned." Naturally, the melee led to lurid headlines. The Herald Saturday edition of June 9 headline was: Mayor takes Tories to task." Not helpful at all.

Nor was it helpful to Special Ed and the Tories when Education Minister Ron Leipert announced that because of rising costs, and the rising value of the loonie, the province was feeling a financial strain. Thus, the people of Calgary should not expect too much in the way of new school construction. Lack of schools in new subdivisions has been a critical problem for some time now. With no end in sight, parents of small children who are bussed long distances every day are, and will be in the forseeable future, bloody angry.

In the end there was another piece of what could be interpreted as good news for the Premier. His predecessor, mentor, and patron Ralph Klein had a slough named after him. Oh, they call it a Park. Ralph Klein Park. But it is 30 hectares located in the 225 hectare Shepard Wetlands, located in south-east Calgary near the City limits. And so, its a slough.

And if that is the best thing that can happen to the Tories on the cusp of the Elbow by-election, well, I think Special Ed is going to lose this one. On Tuesday, look to Liberal Craig Cheffins taking Ralph's old riding away from the Tories.

Monday, June 04, 2007


It wasn't supposed to be this way.

The Federal Grits, divided and at war - with Grits - with gaping, bleeding, largely self-inflicted wounds. The wretched odor of Adscam apparently permeating deep into the Canadian landscape. Grits broke and Conservatives flush. Grits in the sloughs of despond. Conservatives cheerfully aloft, setting sail for what was sure to be their era in the sun.

The Grits, out of power and with a new leader - a serious and austere ex-Prof, struggling with the Queen's English, broadly berated and ridiculed even by the political literati, cognisenti and glitterati of his own Province.

The Conservatives, basking still in their minority victory of January 2006, with an apparently young, organized, and decisive man in motion leading his team of new eager young men and women, prepared and ready to take the country in a new and exciting direction. Ah, they thought, just a few more yards to the majority government finish line. No photo finish this time. The only thing that will be finished will be the Grits.

Unhappily for Bush's pal Steve Harper, it is not turning out that way.

The great unravelling began with the Conservative about face on the income trust issue. It continued with the billions of dollars of bribe money given to Quebec in the last budget. It gathered speed with the disaster of the detainee issue in Afghanistan and accusations of a coverup, together with the gargantuan and the continued ineptitude of Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor. And then, further into the mire with Harper's feeble greenhouse gas policy flogged by his pushy, frat boy pit bull John Baird, more suited to managing the beer machine than selling any kind of a policy.

Hovering over all of this was and is the obvious (some would say odious) ideological love affair between the Prime Minister and probably the most detested and inept western leader in recent memory - G. W. Bush. Not to mention, the Prime Minister's bent for surly and extreme partisanship and Joe McCarthy-like allegations trashing the integrity and motives of Opposition members together with his disdain for the press.

The result of this potent, kool-aid cocktail of incompetence and hubris is a series of polls that put the Grits and Conservatives neck and neck, with the Bloc not wanting to play Jack Kevorkian in the Commons and no Party wanting a quick election. Not yet, in any event.

In the meantime, Stephane Dion continues to slowly and steadily hone and develop his skills. This past weekend, he wooed a couple of hundred local Grits at a fund raising dinner in Calgary. He spoke slowly and clearly to an impressed and rapt audience as he set forth his vision of Canada under a Dion Government. He was joined by his wife Janine Krieber, a solid and brainy politician in her own right, who charmed the crowd.

The next day in a speech to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference, he promised to help Canadian municipalities reduce a 100 million dollar infrastructure deficit, with some long-term planning and the permanent transfer of the federal gas tax. Dion's speech earned him three standing ovations.

Is it Aesop or Hans Christian Anderson? Is Dion the Turtoise, and Harper the Hare? Or is Dion the Ugly Duckling becoming a swan? Take your pick. But Dion will be the Prime Minister after the next election.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


For Special Ed, these are tough times. Brutal, in fact. For the past couple of weeks, with a single exception, its been all bad news. Indeed, he picked up plenty of speed going down the steep incline towards the Harry Strom world of political oblivion.

Calgary's Mayor Bronco continued his deft attack against Special Ed's double cross on what should have been no-strings infrastructure money to Calgary.
Surprisingly, Eddie's Calgary Tory Caucus Chair David Rodney, MLA for Calgary Lougheed was caught stumbling in the wake of the Bronco onslaught. Rodney blamed obvious Tory difficulties in Calgary to Bronco's attacks on municipal funding. He also accused the Mayor of misleading Calgarians on the issue in an effort to get the Government to knuckle under to his demands. Rodney added loftily that, "He [Bronco] needs to remember he's the mayor of Calgary, he's not his (sic) majesty's loyal opposition." Pouring more gasoline on the fire, Rodney said the Mayor was betraying Calgarians by sabotaging the efforts of Calgary Tory MLA's. Bronco, for his part, rose in righteous indignation to demand Rodney cease the 'personal attacks,' and work to solve the problem. Rodney's whining was surprising for a formerly sure-footed, two-time conqueror of Mount Everest cum gung-ho motivational speaker. Happily for him he stumbled at the low altitudes of the Alberta prairies rather than at 28000 feet.

Finance Minister Lyle Oberg continued his reckless musings by implying that that the Task Force looking into the adequacy of oil and gas royalties going into Government coffers would likely decide that they were fine. According to Oberg, because of high cost inflation in exploration and development, the oil companies just would probably not be able to pay any more. Hence, the obvious question - why bother continuing with the Task Force? Ministers had to clean up the motormouth's mess so that the Task Force could continue to stumble to what the oil barons are sure to see as a positive and just outcome.

In the meantime, formerly friendly editorial boards of the major print media are becoming increasingly bellicose and threatening of the Special Ed squad. Columnist Rick Bell of the Calgary Sun has been on the Government's case for a long time. But he is now being joined by the likes of the Edmonton Sun's Neil Waugh.

And to add to Eddie's woes, Cameron Strategies, a market research firm headed by political strategist Bruce Cameron who honed his skills with the Angus Reid firm for many years, released some polling results. The Tories could only regard them as bleak. In the formerly unassailable Tory bastion of Calgary, Special Ed's team had dropped 19 points from January to May - to a measly 40%. In Edmonton, the news was hardly better - the Tories had dropped 8 points to 42%. Worse yet, Ed's disapproval rating in Cowtown had jumped from 18% to 39%. That last number, Cameron colorfully described as the 'first shoe dropping.'

The only good news for the Tories was Health Minister Dave Hancock's announcement that he had convinced the Government to finally ban smoking in public places and work sites, as well as to restrict the number of establishments that may sell tobacco products. Not only did Hancock accomplish this over the strenuous objections of many in the Tory caucus, it is the only coherent piece of important legislation brought forth so far by the Government since Special Ed took power.

In the meantime on the by-election front, Grit candidate Craig Cheffins' campaign to win Ralph Klein's old riding in Calgary Elbow, is humming along nicely. Grit troops from throughout the City and some from as far away as Edmonton are busily knocking on doors, the red signs are out in abundance and the money is rolling in. In Drumheller-Stettler, Tom Dooley, a popular rancher from the riding who pilots his own plane, has his whole family out in force as well as his many friends and supporters. He too senses change in the air, as he cheerfully scours the large riding for Grit support.

And just this Wednesday past, Leader Kevin Taft spoke to 400 of the faithful at a fund-raising dinner at downtown Calgary's Hyatt Regency. His message was simple, effective, thoughtful and well received, and - not to mention - timely. According to Taft, it was high time an Alberta Government had a plan - a plan to manage our wealth for present and future generations. How was it, he asked, that even though the Provincial Government have spent 93% of all oil and gas royalties that it has received in the last 25 years, we still lack schools, hospitals, roads, and affordable housing? And where were the policies on land use, a dwindling water supply and proper municipal funding?

There were Grits in the crowd alright. But there were plenty of old Tories. And they were listening carefully, and clapped vigorously at the end. This is not a dream. It is happening. Special Ed's nightmares continue.