Saturday, April 29, 2006

Craig Chandler agrees to interview

I am pleased to report that Craig Chandler has apparently agreed to an exclusive interview to be conducted by yours truly. (Check the comments on this post.)

Given that news on the Alberta Alliance has been a bit slow lately, this development gives me something to do. Thanks Craig!


The comments were discontinued when I migrated this blog to the new version of blogger on December 21, 2006. A commenter identifying himself as "craig b. chandler" did indicate that he "was all for the e-mail interview" in the comments to the post.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Paul Hinman to cross floor?

The evidence of malaise and despair in the ranks of the Alberta Alliance continues to mount. I have learned that a poster on a UK discussion forum using the pseudonym "Kittysmom" may be none other than Barbie-Jo Williams, the wife of Alberta Alliance political researcher and communications guru, Jonathan Williams.

While the forum would not appear to be political in nature, Kittysmom does provide some insights into the current mindset of Alberta Alliance insiders in one of the discussion threads. The thread begins with Kittysmom describing a conversation she recently had with "Hubby" on April 23:

I think I need to start going straight from fridays to mondays Th4e last couple of weekends have been so bad.

Hubby and I have been trying to have a talk now for most of the week and finally managed to finish it Sunday Afternoon. and to make a long story short there is a good Possibility that he will be without a Job in a year ( the downside to a Job working for a politician is that Jobs change with the flux of Politics and Alberta is going through a change right now) So now we are looking at where we will be in a year.

Two posts later, a poster named "Defsmith" asks Kittysmom what her husband does, to which she answers:
Hubby Does Research and communications for the one and only elected Membee or the Legislative assembly For the Alberta Alliance Party. A Party that was Started as the Leader of the Conservitive Party (Party in Power)is a real Twit but he is retering this Autumn and then there will be a new Leader of the Conservitives and one person that is planning to run will Kill the Alberta Alliance Party And if he does decide to run it is almost a sure bet he will be elected. The MLA jon works for will likley cross the floor to the conservitives should that happen but the conservitive party has its own Research and communications People and while it is a small possibility that Jon might get a Job with them it is unlikely. (my emphasis added)


More from Kittysmom in the same thread:

The Tories here are different that the ones over there and this guy that is thinking of running is a good leader he was in federal politics before and was really well liked it is just that it is not good for hubbys job if he wins.

I had a really hard time over in the UK never could figure out who to vote for didn't like any of them.

Followed by this snippet:
Hubby and the other person who works for the same MLA have both been looking at other Jobs and sending out applications. Hubby has even been looking back in the UK not sure that I am quite ready for another over seas move.
While we must always view posts on the internet with a degree of caution, the indicia of authenticity surrounding these posts are overwhelming:
  1. The poster named Kittysmom provides personal details in her profile that matches the personal details of the real Williams family to a tee.
  2. Kittysmom refers to "hubby" as "jon".
  3. Kittysmom is obviously conversant with the Preston Manning situation, and accurately describes what many people believe his entry into the PC leadership race would mean to the Alberta Alliance.
  4. Kittysmom accurately describes the number of employees working directly for Paul Hinman.
  5. The disclosure from Kittysmom that "hubby" was looking for other work is corroborated by Jonathan Williams himself in this post on the Alliance Opposition Blog from April 5, where he states that he has started back with his column at his former paper in Cardston: "Well as of last week. I am a columnist for my former paper in Cardston again. It is nice to have a chance to air my views weekly once more."

Based on the foregoing, I am convinced that these posts are genuine, and they are from the real spouse of Jonathan Williams. Her disclosure that Paul Hinman "will likley cross the floor to the conservitives" in the event of a Preston Manning victory in the PC leadership race must be viewed as insider information that came from Jonathan Williams himself.

But where did Jonathan Williams get this information?

Has Paul Hinman already discussed his plans with the Alberta Alliance staff at the legislature, and does that explain why they are already seeking alternate employment? And if Paul Hinman does cross the floor to join Preston Manning, what does that mean for the AAP?

While floor crossing is a phenomenon that is not unknown in politics, has there ever been a case where a party leader has crossed the floor?

I don't know the answers to any of these questions, but I do know this: the mere fact that these questions are being asked is the worst possible news for the Alberta Alliance.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Selective research at the Alliance Opposition Blog

Jonathan Williams did a post on April 12 that creates a false impression. He was commenting on the Premiers' equalization conference in Montreal, and was generally critical of how the Conservative premiers seemed to have their "hands out wanting more." He cited this story from Yahoo News in support of his post. In the Yahoo News story, no comments appeared from Premier Ralph Klein, so Jonathan Williams jumped on the omission and blasted the Premier:

Now interestingly this report did not included a single point from our Premier. So are you telling me we had nothing to say?

Well, there are two possible reasons why no quote from Klein appeared in the story. The first reason would be that Klein was interviewed, and "had nothing to say". The second reason is that the reporter, Joan Bryden, may have decided not to include a quote from Klein. If Jonathan Williams would have done a simple check of Google News, he would have discovered that Klein had plenty to say on equalization, and his name appeared in many articles on equalization on April 11 and 12. Here are just a few examples:

"Provinces oil revenue defended by Klein", Calgary Sun, April 12

"On natural resources, we're very concerned," Alberta Premier Ralph Klein told a news conference along with his counterparts after meeting with them to discuss the issue.

"You might say we're opposed to the inclusion of resource revenue in the report."

"No consensus from premiers on how to fix fiscal imbalance", National Post, April 12
Alberta's Ralph Klein, meanwhile, had no problem boosting equalization payments, even though his province, along with Saskatchewan and Ontario, doesn't benefit. But, while Alberta is "a sharing province,'' Klein said he's opposed to the formula recommended by the panel for calculating equalization.
"Solving fiscal imbalance won't be easy: premiers", CTV News, April 12

The proposed change would boost equalization payments to $15.1 billion a year from the current $9.4 billion.

At present, payments are based on a five-province standard, which excludes oil-rich Alberta.

The suggestion raised the hackles of Premiers Ralph Klein of Alberta and Lorne Calvert of Saskatchewan.

Klein said resource revenues are very volatile, adding, "The only thing I can tell you is what goes up, must come down," referring to when price slumps in the 1980s and 1990s hurt Alberta's economy. ...

... Alberta Premier Ralph Klein, meanwhile, said he had no problem boosting equalization payments. But he added that he's opposed to the formula recommended by the panel for calculating equalization.

Klein has also rejected the recommendation to add the province's revenue to the calculation which would add $5.3 billion to the fund.

"Premiers divided over changes to payments", CBC News, April 12
Alberta Premier Ralph Klein, who chaired Tuesday's meeting in Montreal, is concerned the report recommends including resource revenue in the calculations. "It was included at one time, it was removed in 1982," says Klein. "We're very concerned and, you might say, we're opposed to the inclusion of resource revenue in the report. But that's a matter that needs to be discussed down the road. " Currently, equalization payments are based on a five-province standard, excluding oil-rich Alberta.
"Alberta's oil riches bubble to the surface", Globe and Mail, April 12

Alberta's vast mineral riches figured prominently in the talks after a blue-chip panel's report, unveiled yesterday, recommended that the formula for calculating equalization payments to less-prosperous regions include revenue from the province's booming oil and gas industry.

The panel, headed by Janice Stein of the University of Toronto and Robert Gagné of the University of Montreal, jumped into a debate that has simmered quietly for months in provincial capitals about Alberta's emergence as a provincial superpower. Last summer, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty described it as "the elephant in the room" no one wanted to discuss.

Alberta Premier Ralph Klein made it clear that he does not support any move to include the province's resource revenues in the calculation for payments under the national equalization program -- a position that put him at odds with most recipients of the program.

"We're very concerned, and you might say we're opposed," he said at a news conference after the meeting.

Although Alberta might be reaping the benefits of high oil prices today, Mr. Klein said, the good times won't last forever.

"The only thing I can tell you is that what goes up must come down. So while the price is high now, it might come crashing down."

"No consensus from premiers on how to resolve fiscal imbalance", Macleans, April 11

Alberta's Ralph Klein, meanwhile, had no problem boosting equalization payments, even though his province, along with Saskatchewan and Ontario, doesn't benefit. But, while Alberta is "a sharing province," Klein said he's opposed to the formula recommended by the panel for calculating equalization. ...

... Currently, equalization payments are based on a five-province standard, excluding oil-rich Alberta.

Ottawa gives equalization to poorer provinces to enable them to provide services at taxation levels comparable to those of the rich provinces.

Klein likened the panel's proposal to the hated National Energy Program of the early 1980s, which siphoned off the province's oil wealth. He said it wouldn't be fair to include resource revenue in the equalization calculation since resource prices are so volatile.

"The only thing I can tell you is what goes up, must come down," he said, recalling the devastation wrought on Alberta's economy when oil prices crashed in the 1980s.

All of these stories were online prior to Jonathan Williams' post.

I am no defender of Ralph Klein, but he clearly voiced his opposition to the equalization report loudly and repeatedly. To suggest otherwise is false.

This incident brings to mind a famous quote from Hiram Johnson: "Truth is the first casualty of war". Based on the AAP's latest effort to "blame Ralph", truth is the first casualty in Alberta Alliance communications as well.

Alberta Alliance abandons Paul Hinman

It has been a week since the infamous Paul Jackson column entitled "Changing Tides" ran in last Sunday's Calgary Sun. For those of you that haven't read the column, all you really need to know is that in the column, Jackson called for Paul Hinman to "step aside" for Preston Manning. (I blogged about that column here.) After I read the Jackson column, I fully expected that the Alliance would respond with a strenuous rebuttal, given that Paul Hinman was elected leader less than 5 months ago. I anticipated a co-ordinated response involving letters to the Calgary Sun Editor from the executive of the party, as well as from party members. I expected those letters to state that the party had full confidence in the leadership of Paul Hinman, and that Paul Jackson was out to lunch for suggesting there was any need to replace him.

Given that I expected the party to rally around the leader, I must admit that I am somewhat flummoxed at what actually occurred. I have just gone through the six editions of the Calgary Sun that have been published since the "Changing Tides" column ran. Not a single letter supporting Paul Hinman was to be found. In fact, the only letter on the Jackson column that I could find was published today, in the April 15 edition. That letter was written by a fellow named Jeff Willerton, and it was supportive of Paul Jackson's views:

Paul Jackson is right. ("Changing tides," April 9.) The smart money is on Preston Manning to be our next premier, regardless of whether he leads the Tories or the Alliance. It's up to him whether he wants to lend his legitimately conservative credentials to an extraordinarily liberal Tory party (as did Stockwell Day for 10 years) or wants to finish it off by breathing life into a new organization. Either way, Preston will soon be our premier, should he choose to accept the mission. If he cares about this province, he needs to do everything in his power to keep it out of liberal hands. He's in the unique position of being the one man in Alberta who can do that.

Jeff Willerton

I then checked the Alberta Alliance blogs. There was no mention of the Jackson column on any of them. Interestingly, on Exposed Agenda, I found this post in which Alberta Alliance member Aizlynne expressed a yearning to have PC leadership candidate Ted Morton join up with the Alberta Alliance if and when he loses the leadership contest:
Ted Morton has more than just a vision for Alberta, he also has a policy and plan called the Alberta Agenda. Of course, Ted is a real policy wonk so we can expect to get exceptional policy reform from Ted. Only problem? Ted won't win - especially if you add Preston Manning into the mix. I hope his exit strategy includes considering coming over to the Alberta Alliance where he belongs! After all, the Alberta Alliance is the only party utilizing his Alberta Agenda as part of it's policy platform.

Is Aizlynne suggesting that Ted Morton would join the AAP under the leadership of Paul Hinman? I can't see Morton giving up a cabinet spot in the next government in order to sit behind Hinman in the nosebleed seats. This is clearly an expression of support for the idea that new leadership is required in the Alberta Alliance - in the form of Ted Morton.

Based on the foregoing, I am convinced that there is a strong undercurrent of dissatisfaction with Paul Hinman's leadership amongst the Alberta Alliance membership. He has literally been hung out to dry, and his supporters have abandoned him.

The only questions that remain are how deep this dissatisfaction is, and when will this dissatisfaction begin manifesting itself in an overt campaign to remove Hinman from the leadership.

As Ralph Klein recently stated: politics is a blood sport. Unfortunately for Paul Hinman, all of the signs suggest he is going to be getting some firsthand experience at just how bloody it is.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Confidential tips by email

If you look at the sidebar on the right-hand side of this page, you'll notice that I have added an email link. This feature is provided as a service to you, the readers of Alberta Alliance Watch.

Information is the lifeblood of any media, and I hope some of you will provide me with information that you think is important for the public to know about. The following represents the policies I will administer with respect to any information you provide to me:

  • The information will only be published if it pertains to the Alberta Alliance Party.
  • Your complete confidentiality will be respected. No information that may serve to identify you will be published by me.
  • Your email address will be kept completely confidential. It will not be shared with anybody.
  • I will not publish anything that is defamatory.
I think that covers it, but if you have any recommendations on how this feature can be improved, I would be glad to hear from you.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Craig Chandler prophesies armageddon for the Alberta Alliance

In the April 8 edition of the Edmonton Journal, another article appeared on the Preston Manning issue. Amongst the many people interviewed for the article by Journal Staff Writer Mike Sadava was the executive director of the Progressive Group for Independent Business, Craig Chandler. The article is behind the subscriber wall, but I have managed to obtain a hard copy of it.

Craig Chandler is of course no stranger to Alberta Alliance members. He is the former campaign manager for David Crutcher, who finished third in the recent leadership race. He is also both a former candidate and campaign manager for the Reform Party of Canada. Chandler commented on what Manning's candidacy would mean to evangelical Christians, and the Alberta Alliance:

Craig Chandler, executive director of the Calgary-based Progressive Group for Independent Business who ran Manning's 1993 campaign in Ontario, said evangelical Christians like himself and groups like Alberta Pro Life will support him en masse.

"I think you'll see the entire social conservative movement in Alberta if Preston runs, and they'll deliver the vote," Chandler said. "They'll roll up their sleeves and they'll do the work ... If he wants this thing, it's his." ...

... Chandler predicted the Alberta Alliance party will die if Manning goes into the premier's office, because the people who support the provincial party will move their support to Manning.

Paul Hinman, the sole Alliance MLA, insisted there would still be a need for the Alliance party. But he was disappointed that Manning could seek the Tory leadership. They came close to begging him to run for the Alliance but he turned down the invitation.

So, according to Chandler, evangelical Christians will flock to Manning. That will have two consequences: (i) it will assure a Manning victory in the PC leadership contest, and (ii) it will result in a catastrophic collapse in Alliance support. If Chandler is correct, this proves that the Alberta Alliance voter base is comprised almost entirely of evangelical Christians.

The other noteworthy disclosure in this article is the fact that a group of Alberta Alliance members - including Hinman himself apparently - "came close to begging" Manning to run for the Alliance, and that Manning turned them down. This cursory rejection definitively shows that Preston Manning considers the Alberta Alliance to be little more than a fringe party, completely unworthy of support, and a total waste of time.

Based on the latest media coverage, it is now a question of when, not if, Manning will throw his hat into the PC leadership race. If Manning wins, the next election will feature Paul Hinman running against a party lead by the very person he was pleading with to lead the Alliance. That fact alone will allow Manning to make a total mockery out of the AAP.

It may be time for you Alberta Alliance members to make your political amends, and seek forgiveness - because according to Craig Chandler, and a lot of other credible people, your political Rapture will soon be at hand.

Sunday, April 9, 2006

Paul Jackson endorses Preston Manning ... for Alberta Alliance leader

Calgary Sun pundit Paul Jackson wrote an interesting column today. He essentially called for Paul Hinman to stand aside as leader of the Alberta Alliance and make way for Preston Manning:

Yet let's throw a curve -- Preston Manning should surely be in the race, but not for the PC leadership.

He should make a pitch for the Alberta Alliance top job.

In 2004, the Alliance came from nowhere to win 9% of the vote, and had someone with a higher and more acceptable profile than Randy Thorsteinson been the leader it would have done even better.

Current leader Paul Hinman might easily be persuaded to step aside.

Right now, there are moves under way to have right-wing fringe parties such as Social Credit merge with the Alliance to have a solid and united Conservative alternative to the PCs.

With Manning at the Alliance's helm, the party would have all the legitimacy it needed and a star candidate.

Those now dissatisfied with the PCs would have a real home to go to.

Manning would surely be formidable -- and likely unbeatable. Remember, in just 10 years he built the Reform party from a kitchen-table discussion group to being the second largest political party in the country and the official Opposition in the House of Commons.

As in the past, Alberta could be in for a shattering change in its governing party.

Paul Jackson is one of the most widely read conservative columnists in Alberta. Unlike his colleagues, he actually covers the Alberta Alliance, and wrote two fawning columns about Marilyn Burns' leadership aspirations last year. I think it's fair to say that he has been more bullish on the Alberta Alliance than any other columnist in the province.

The fact that he is now calling for the head of Paul Hinman - who has only been leader for six months or so - is obviously bad news for the Alliance's only elected representative.

It also makes one wonder how deep the dissatisfaction is amongst the Alliance faithful over Paul Hinman's uninspiring leadership.

Friday, April 7, 2006

Paul Hinman's sinking ship

Paul Hinman attempted some humor this week in order to get the media to pay some attention to him. In an article published in the Edmonton Sun on April 4, the Alliance leader cast doubt on the navigational skills of the Alberta PC's by likening them to the crew of the B.C. ferry that sank off Vancouver Island last week:

Alliance Leader Paul Hinman said the Tories remind him of the B.C. ferry that crashed on the rocks and sank off the West Coast last week.

"Sure, they're going full steam ahead. The captain and crew is saying the ship is on autopilot, but the passengers are screaming, 'We're off course.' "

Ha Ha Ha.

I hope Hinman enjoyed his joke as much as I enjoyed reading the Leger Marketing public opinion poll published in the Calgary Herald today, because according to the poll, the only sinking ship in Alberta politics right now is the HMCS Alberta Alliance. The poll was primarily focussed on the effects of Preston Manning's probable entry into the Progressive Conservative leadership race. One of the questions asked of the 900 randomly selected Albertans who responded to the poll was what their voting preference would be if Manning was leading the PC's:

When asked which party they'd vote for with Manning at the Tory helm, 51 per cent of respondents said they'd back the Conservatives, compared to 17 per cent for Kevin Taft's Liberals and seven per cent for Brian Mason's NDP.

The Green party, with four per cent, and Paul Hinman's Alberta Alliance, with three per cent, round out the mainstream parties.

Three percent? It appears a Premier Preston Manning would be the battleship that torpedoes the creaky Alliance vessel once and for all.

Maybe it's time for Paul Hinman and the Alberta Alliance to send out an SOS.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Sun Media bursts the Alberta Alliance bubble

One of the myths perpetrated by the Alberta Alliance and its adherents is that they will do to the Progressive Conservative Party what the PC's did to Social Credit back in 1971 - totally sweep them from office. They believe that Albertans have a tradition of sweeping the governing party from power every 30 years or so, and, given that the PC's have been governing for approximately 35 years, we are overdue for one of these Alberta electoral purges. According to AAP true believers, when Albertans do oust the PC's from office, the Alberta Alliance will be the beneficiary, and form a government.

Given this, I found it interesting that two Sun Media columnists wrote columns in the past week that touched on this issue. On April 2, Licia Corbella wrote a piece discussing Preston Manning's surprise announcement that he may seek the leadership of the PC's. On April 3, Ezra Levant weighed in on the Manning controversy as well. In both articles, the prospect of Manning starting a new party was also mentioned as a secondary strategy for him in pursuing the Premier's chair, but neither Corbella nor Levant mentioned the leadership of the Alberta Alliance as an option.

Here is the text from the Corbella article:

April 2, 2006

Will he or won't he?

Manning's entry into leadership race would have a huge impact
By Licia Corbella

A Premier Manning played a large role in the past of this province and a Premier Manning just might play a large role in its future, too.

Now that Premier Ralph Klein has essentially been told by 45% of his party membership that it's time to go (though it's not clear yet whether Ralph has fully accepted that message), Premier Ernest Charles Manning's son, Ernest Preston Manning, says he just might be convinced to throw his Stetson into Alberta's Progressive Conservative Party leadership ring.

And judging from the warmth and enthusiasm with which the 62-year-old founder of the Reform Party and the Alliance Party was greeted by the more than 1,500 delegates in attendance to listen to his lunchtime speech yesterday at the party's convention, it's clear that were he to do that, his candidacy would throw the leadership race for the top provincial political job wide open.

Manning received a rousing spontaneous standing ovation in the enormous room at the convention centre -- not one of those grudging follow-the-leader types of ovations -- as he was called to the stage by Morten Paulsen and another spontaneous rousing ovation at the close of his speech -- which sounded a lot like a stump speech.

When asked during a press scrum moments later if he's considering running for the leadership, Manning essentially said "maybe."

"A number of people have spoken to me about (running for the leadership), but I would need to be convinced that was a good idea for the province, for the party and for Sandra and myself," said Manning.

"I'm open, but I would need to be convinced."

What exactly would it take to convince him?

"Is there a good receptivity from a good cross-section of Albertans to the ideas I talked about today in terms of future direction, are there people in the party willing to do the work these types of contests involve, and from Sandra's and my perspective, is there anyway that could be done without spending 200 days a year on the road apart from each other, which is what we did on our last political venture?" he said, referring to his bid for the leadership of the Alliance Party -- which he formed -- but lost resoundingly to Stockwell Day back in July 2000.

Still bearing those scars, it's clear Manning will need more than a few standing O's and questions of his intentions from his numerous admirers.

Manning added he'd need to build up "a piggy bank" for a leadership run pretty quickly too, since former provincial treasurer Jim Dinning has raised millions, Mark Norris, the 43-year-old Edmonton businessman and former Alberta economic development minister raised more than $1 million and Calgary Foothills-Rocky View MLA Ted Morton has sizable cash behind him as well.

Again, no problem on that front. Within seconds of Manning's scrum, Cliff Fryers, a former chief of staff to Preston Manning and a founding member of Reform, said it would take him "no time at all" to raise all the money needed for Manning to launch a robust race for the top.

That leaves the need for workers and membership sales, and judging from how quick and positive the buzz about Manning's musings on leadership spread around the convention floor, those would also follow quickly, be it within the Tory fold or with a new party.

But Manning's real strengths are his ideas and vision. His current endeavour, The Manning Centre for Building Democracy, is essentially an idea factory on how to build conservative political infrastructure.

In his speech, Manning spoke of the need for Alberta to look to its political history as a source of guidance and inspiration for its future recalling that "Alberta began as a frontier territory -- where those frontier conditions fostered and rewarded independence, equality, cooperation and the desire for self government."

Naturally, it was impossible to look into Alberta's past without invoking his father, who was elected seven consecutive times and retired at the top of his game in 1968 as premier and leader of the Social Credit party.

"When my father was elected to the legislature in 1935 (during the Great Depression) Alberta was $161 million in debt thanks to a railway spending spree by our one and only Liberal administration in the first part of the century. The budget of the province was $15 million, $8 million of that was pledged to debt service. That left $7 million per year on which to run the province, with cash flow insufficient to even meet the public service payroll, let alone provide services," recalled Manning.

"That dark and desperate part of our past should keep us ever mindful in our present affluence of those citizens and provinces less fortunate than ourselves, and energize us in the development of fresh policies to deal with poverty and regional disparities in our time," said Manning to loud applause.

Manning pointed out that Alberta has long periods of one-party government -- only four administrations in its first century -- including the Liberals, the United Farmers of Alberta, Social Credit and the Progressive Conservatives.

To prevent the PCs from going the way of the political Dodo bird, Manning said big ideas are needed.

He believes a "new and improved" Heritage Savings and Investment Strategy could re-energize the party and even protect it from a potential NEP by investing some outside of the province for the benefit of all Canadians.

His comments about reforming health care, similar to France, Sweden, Japan and Australia, which all spend less per capita than Canada does on health care but which get better health care results, was soundly cheered as was his plans to marry love of land, the environment AND economic development together.

Sounds like Manning has his platform. If, as he says, he gets enough people to do the "heavy lifting" with him, this last horse out of the leadership gate might lap the field.

And the Levant column:

April 3, 2006

Knifed in the back

Klein's circle truly believed Alberta was 'Ralph's World'
By Ezra Levant

Two months ago, the Western Standard published scathing remarks by top Alberta Tory insiders, criticizing Premier Ralph Klein.

Our report caused an uproar in the Alberta legislature, where cabinet ministers were trotted out by the premier's spin doctors to noisily pledge their undying loyalty to the premier, and denounce us for fabricating dissent against Alberta's best-loved man.

Well, on Friday night we found out just how well-loved he was by his own party -- just 55% of Tory insiders want Klein to stay on.

That's a staggering defeat, considering the 90%-plus tallies Klein used to get. It's even more dramatic given there was no official campaign to dump him.

But the only way Friday night's humiliation could be called a surprise is if one had believed the transparent spin by the five serious leadership campaigns to replace Klein. All pledged their undying loyalty to Klein in public -- then stuck a dagger in his back in the secrecy of the ballot box.

This wasn't surprising, unless one took Tory spin at face value.

Which is why Klein and his inner circle were truly surprised. During the past year, they had begun to believe their own press. They truly thought Alberta was "Ralph's World," a joke from the 2001 election campaign Klein's palace guard obviously came to believe.

They thought vacuous infomercials and meaningless throne speeches and tedious re-announcements of the same health care non-reforms made Alberta tick.

Alberta's ticking along fine on its own. Ralph and his team thought they were the indispensable authors of the province's success.

A perfect crystallization of this arrogance was Deputy Premier Shirley McClellan, who on the eve of the vote, said anyone who'd vote against Klein was a "fool."

Not only must Klein go, McClellan must, too.

She has no confidence in her own party members, 45% of whom are fools to her.

And they surely don't have confidence in her, either.

Klein won't last the year, of course. He's likely been shocked out of his self-loving trance, and will leave on his own volition as soon as possible. If he doesn't, more humiliations will be visited on him -- not exactly the legacy he craves. It's uncertain who advises Klein anymore, other than his wife. Hopefully she will help him leave with some grace, while that is still possible.

In the meantime, the leadership race to succeed Klein goes into overdrive. Jim Dinning is still the favourite, but Mark Norris in Edmonton looms as a serious challenger, both well-financed and representing the north.

Ted Morton was counting on the old federal Reform party base, numerically superior to anything the provincial Tories can muster, to put him over the top. But that strategy faces a threat from Preston Manning, who said Saturday if a sufficient team came forward to do the "heavy lifting" for him, he might take a run at the job, too. I've spent enough time with Manning to know that means "I'm in."

Will Manning run to take over the Tory party? Or will he do what he has done twice before -- start a new party, from scratch, and seek to replace the Tories altogether?

With Dinning's people controlling much of the Tory party infrastructure, a new party might be smarter.

In 1993, Klein was properly viewed as the Tory party's saviour.

In 2006, he may have become its undertaker.

A second Premier Manning? Albertans could do worse.

Alberta Alliance Party members must be crushed.

Here are two of Alberta's most prominent conservative opinion journalists, both talking about the possibility of Manning seeking the Premier's office - and possible routes to that office - and neither one mentioned the possibility that he would seek the leadership of the Alberta Alliance to assist him in his quest. According to Corbella and Levant, the only credible strategies would be (i) to seek the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party, or (ii) start a new party. Neither of them lend any credence to the Alberta Alliance's self-proclaimed status as a government-in-waiting.

Perhaps it's time for Alberta Alliance members to admit that their party simply doesn't factor in to the thought processes of any serious politicial commentator.

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Albertans dump on Alliance and Hinman

I just found something interesting.

According to an Ipsos Reid poll conducted between February 22 and 28, 2006, the Alberta Alliance is a distant last amongst the four main parties in Alberta. The Alliance scored a pathetic 5% amongst decided voters, compared to 58% for the Progressive Conservatives, 18% for the Liberals, and 13% for the NDP.

If that isn't bad enough, Paul Hinman also finished dead last amongst the major party leaders when Albertans were asked if they approved of the job the leaders were doing. Only 36% gave Hinman the thumbs up, compared to 72% for Ralph Klein, 54% for Kevin Taft, and 48% for Brian Mason.

Read it for yourself here.

Sunday, April 2, 2006

A blast from the past

Preston ManningIt was a grim April Fool's Day for Alberta Alliance members.

Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning dropped a bombshell yesterday when he expressed an interest in running for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta.

The fact that a Reform Party icon would go to the dreaded "Red Tories", rather than to the Alberta Alliance, is proof that mainstream conservative Albertans have no real interest in the right wing rump party.

More importantly, if Manning wins the leadership, the Alberta Alliance will likely lose what little support they have, become seatless, and disappear totally from the political scene in Alberta.

I just started this blog 3 days ago. Has the final act in the decline and fall of the Alberta Alliance already been written?