Round One! Thomas Lukaszuk!

“Diamond” Jim Prentice (don’t you just love the “Brian Masonism”) adopted a “nobody moves, nobody gets hurt” strategy for his leadership campaign…and it works for the 99% of his election platform.

There will be no change to the energy policy (full steam ahead with expanding the oilsands), no change to upgrading bitumen in Alberta…unless it’s “competitive” (read: OK with Big Oil), no change to the environmental policy (leave climate change to the Feds), no change to revenue generation (no sales tax, no royalty changes) and no change to the decision to incur $18 billion in debt by 2015-16 until he’s at the table and can scrutinize and prioritize the plan* (rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic?).

Mr Prentice

The one change Mr Prentice did promise was to restore trust in the PC government by ending entitlement. He’s going to toughen the government’s conflict of interest rules and impose better controls on lobbyists. Anyone who breaches these rules will be gone.

Sounds good but how does a premier “fire” an MLA—only the voters can do that—or rip up legally binding contracts made by the government with an MLA’s friends, family and big donors?  

The donor list

Mr Prentice’s commitment to restore trust hit a speed bump last week when Thomas Lukaszuk announced that he would disclose his list of financial supporters before Sept 6, the date that PC party members vote for their new leader. (Mr McIver soon followed suit).

Instead of saying “yes, I’ll publish my donor list” or “no, not in your wildest dreams” Mr Prentice resorted to what Steven Pinker calls “indirect language.” The purpose of indirect language is to avoid creating mutual understanding. It sounds (sort of) like a commitment but allows you to back away if things don’t turn out as you expected.

Mr Prentice’s said: “We will follow the process put in place by the party and required by Elections Alberta to the letter.”**

Given that Elections Alberta does not require disclosure of financial donors until after the campaign and the PC party has no rules requiring disclosure prior to the election date, Mr Prentice’s promise to follow the law and party’s process “to the letter” meant that Mr Prentice would not disclose his donors list until after his campaign is over.

The next day Mr Prentice did an about face. He decided not to follow the process set out by the party and Elections Alberta to the letter. Instead, he’d voluntarily disclose his donor’s list prior to the Sept 6 vote.

Trap sprung!  Mr Lukaszuk grinned like a Cheshire cat.

Shrewd politicking

Mr Lukaszuk says he’s disclosing his donor list because: “I intuitively believe the public wants to know…it gives you a clear understanding of the candidate.”**

Mr Lukaszuk

He’s right.

Mr Lukaszuk is a very shrewd politician. In order to win the grassroots vote he needs to hammer the point that Mr Prentice is a corporate “insider”; a slick lawyer/banker who enjoys the support of big business and well-heeled Albertans…people who are not like you and me.

By forcing Mr Prentice to go beyond the “letter of the law” and voluntarily reveal his donor list Mr Lukaszuk will be able to draw a bright line between himself and the smooth talking politician who blew into town to save the PC party from itself.

Nicely played Mr Lukaszuk, nicely played.

*Calgary Herald, May 29, 2014, A4

**Calgary Herald May 28, 2014, A4

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12 Responses to Round One! Thomas Lukaszuk!

  1. Sylvia Krogh says:

    Thanks for your analysis, Susan. Yes, Conservatives are incredibly good at obfuscation.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      I loved your ‘Conservatives are incredibly good at obfuscation.’ They are not alone in today’s political world, but they are certainly experts. The latest I truly enjoyed was our dear prime minister attacking communism’s lack of freedom. First of all being an economist, the prime minister should know that Russia is anything but a communist nation. If anything one can call it cowboy capitalism and they have his beloved market that is as free as ours. In Russia they are controlled by Mafias, Here they are controlled by Bay Street’s brokers. Secondly it seems that China’s lack of freedom is ok with him. I guess China sends some billions this way so … no issue there.

      Steven Harper muzzled our scientists and librarians, excludes activists from any meetings the government has controlled over and spies on its own citizens and has the guts to criticize Putin for doing the same. I guess the difference is that in Russia they put them in jail and rough them up and here we just warn them with some pepper spray and some intimidation by well dressed policemen. It is definitely more compassionate. 🙂
      We do not have any moral to be pointing fingers to anyone these days. We do it in a classier way.
      No wonder than in the book ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’ the authors state that in 1968 60% of Canadians trusted their government and in 2012 that number is 28%. By now it is probably 10%.

      • Carlos, excellent point about Harper’s hypocrisy when it comes to Russia vs China. I wonder how he feels about the Russia/China gas deal which will or won’t become an issue for Canadian exports to China depending on who you believe.
        I agree 100% with your other comment that the PCs are incapable of changing their ways. What I can’t understand is why Albertans continue to vote for them. The PCs have no right to call themselves fiscally conservative. Klein convinced voters he was fiscally conservative by cutting public services. That wasn’t prudent fiscal management, it simply deferred the problem for another day. Well, that day has come and Albertans are paying the price in inadequate healthcare, eldercare, schools and infrastructure. Rather than addressing the problem head on Redford and her Finance Minister Doug Horner papered over it by putting us $18 billion in debt (ie. making it our kids’ problem, not ours). Prentice supports burdening the next generation…his only quibble is by how much, $15 billion, $18 billion, $20 billion. This is ridiculous in a province that is supposed to be the economic driver of all of Canada. If the government can’t figure out how to manage its revenue in order to provide basic public services in the middle of an economic boom how will it cope when things get rough?

      • Sylvia Krogh says:

        All the Alberta government would have to do to eliminate the debt is to get rid of the flat tax. Public Interest Alberta has lots of information on their web-site and campaign as to the great financial benefit that will be to Alberta.

      • Sylvia, I attended the PIA “Alberta Could…” presentation in Calgary a couple of weeks ago. A progressive tax makes good sense. The PIA example resulted in no change for those earning less than $100,000 (95% of all Albertans), a 13% tax on the 3% of the population earning between $100,000 and $150,000 and a 15% tax on the 2% earning more than $150,000. That plus a 2% tax increase on corporations would generate an additional $2 billion in revenue. Not only is this smart, it is sustainable because it’s not tied to the boom/bust energy cycle.

    • Sylvia, obfuscation seems to be the order of the day. Last week Mr Prentice berated the WR for suggesting that the next premier may call a snap election. Prentice implied that the legislation fixing the election date for the spring of 2016 was set in stone. But let’s note forget that the man who say he will abide by the letter of the law can (if he leads a majority government) also change the law with the stroke of a pen. Bill 46 and the elimination of the public sector’s right to compulsory arbitration is a classic example.

  2. Carlos Beca says:

    Susan although I loved your assessment of the situation, in the end it is the fact that nothing changes that matters to me. These displays of internal soap opera are just distractions. Lukaszuk, if elected, will be worse than Alison Redford. Changing the PC party’s ways requires the character strength I do not see anywhere near their ranks. Furthermore, the oil kingdom is not going to let go of what they have been able to get their hands on unless there is a true confrontantion of ideologies and than will not happen with the PCs regardless of who is who in the soap opera. Being dramatic actors is to the benefit of the kingdom.

  3. “Lukaszuk, if elected, will be worse than Alison Redford”. On the other hand – it would raise the level of assurance for the greater good that the PC party following the next election would be truly put in their place. Number one starting from the bottom to the top of voters choices.

    • Bruce, one can only hope that the PC party will indeed by truly put in its place after the next election. I was talking to someone the other day who swears Alberta will always be governed by the PCs and that’s just fine with her. It’s as if she can’t see how badly the PCs have botched the job since the Peter Lougheed days.

  4. Carlos Beca says:

    A month ago I tried to get a bulletin from the Earth Policy Institute on wind power but somehow I cannot find it, but here is the latest one I received today.
    This is quite impressive indeed.

  5. Thanks for the bulletin Carlos. It confirms something I heard Dr Marlo Raynolds say about renewable energy. (Marlo was the executive director of the Pembina Institute and is now VP Marketing with BluEarth Renewables). He said that while the cost of building wind facilities in Alberta is high, once the facilities are built wind energy beats oil energy on a cost per unit of energy basis because unlike conventional fossil fuels, wind is free and here in Alberta, plentiful.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      You are very welcome. The reason I posted it heer is because unfortunately Lorne Gunter from the Edmonton Sun just keeps destroying the reputation of the Wind and Solar energy for what I think is just an ideology silliness. Something similar to Ronald Reagan taking out all solar panels in the whitehouse when he became president.
      Lorne said a couple months ago that the renewal energy program in Germany was a failure and that they were starting to back out of it. This I think, his interpretation of the fact that Germany was phasing out subsidies to the non-reweal industry for two reasons. First it was sustainable enough to keep going and second because of the economic situation in Europe in general. They are basically keeping everyone else from drowning.
      Wind energy is not perfect and none will ever be, but it is substantially better than anything we have in terms of pollution and sustainability. There is a problem with a background noise and vibration but I think those will be resolved as the technology improves. Building them away from busy areas is the way to go for now.
      Going back to the post, I was amazed about the connections Mr. McIver has with the extreme right wing. I am not sure you still read the Alberta Diary but this one is quite instructive.

      I must confess I was surprised.

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