“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?).
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.
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 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