Stuff Happens, week 23: And you wonder why the PCs lost; The Donald enters the race; atrocity of the week

Aside from a few staffing hiccups, things continue to go reasonably well for the New Democratic government. The Speech from the Throne, although limited to just two real bills, was almost universally well received. And the ‘almost’ part of that came from the stunningly clueless Ric McIver, the interim leader of what’s left of the Progressive Conservatives. The government’s Bill 1 will reform the election contribution laws, banning contributions from big business and big unions. The NDP has been asking for this for years, and it’s the right thing to do (although the NDP stands the most to gain, as I outlined yesterday). But McIver voiced his displeasure with the law saying it was a “naked attempt to tilt the political scale in the current government’s balance.” He also said the conservative parties have done well with the system that allowed massive donations. No kidding, pal. Nobody knows more about tilting the political scales in the government’s balance than a PC.

The first day of the new session of the legislature got off to what would charitably be called a rocky start. The new speaker, NDP MLA Bob Wanner, was just a little nervous. I know he’s new at the job, and it’s challenging, but I got the impression he had never seen a moment of the legislature. But Wanner was a star compared to some of the MLAs. A potential concern for Rachel Notley is her choice for energy minister, the completely clueless Margaret McCuiad-Boyd. She was so befuddled by the first question lobbed her way that Notley had to ride to the rescue. I can only imagine the gnashing of teeth going on in the boardrooms of downtown Calgary; McCuiad-Boyd seems completely out of her depth, and it looks like Notley has made her first major blunder by appointing McCuiad-Boyd to a vital portfolio. Almost as bad were questions from NDP backbenchers. The PCs had a long tradition of giving their MLAs “puffball” questions for the ministers to bat out of the park. The shameful tradition continued with Dippers asking insipid questions that the new MLAs seemed strangely proud to ask. I’m hoping that the newbies will come to realize something the PCs never did — that they are there to serve the interests of the people who elected them, not just the party.

Still in the legislature, and still clueless, we return again to McIver. Asking some moderately pertinent questions about how much tax revenue the government expects to raise by its tax increases (incredibly, the NDP had no answers), he said he has lots of friends who make more than $125,000 a year, and many of them are having trouble making ends meet. And you wonder how the Tories became so out-of-touch with the general public.

The hacker group Anonymous launched a cyberattack on federal government websites on Wednesday, crashing the system for nearly two hours, bringing federal government work to a standstill. Being that the attack involved federal government workers, no one noticed.

The National Hockey League season came to an end this week, with the Chicago Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup again. Here in Edmonton, of course, the NHL season officially ended last October when the Oilers played their first game of the season.

Deranged billionaire Donald Trump entered the Republican presidential nomination race this week with an apparently unscripted, unintelligible, incoherent speech that set him apart from the rest of the pack of Republican challengers — he’s even crazier than the rest. Also entering the race, the immediate frontrunner Jeb Bush, son of George I and brother of George II. The odds are pretty good of the continuation of the Bush-Clinton political feud. You’d think that a country of 300-plus million people could at least expect a little variety in their politics.

And finally, this week’s atrocity involved a white supremacist loner with easy access to guns who went into a famous black church in Charleston, South Carolina, and killed nine people in a Bible study group.  America is, once again, convulsed by issues of race and violence. The end result will be …. nothing. By this time next week, the horror will be forgotten, as the world awaits the next atrocity.

RIP: Kirk Kerkorian, billionaire developer who built the MGM Grand and other Las Vegas mega-hotels, at 98.

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By the way, the PCs are electing our new premier. Just thought you should know.

As a respected member of the blogosphere (or at least a member of the blogosphere), I feel it is my obligation to comment on the ‘race’ to be the next leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta, who will also become our next premier. You will be forgiven if you say to yourself, ‘This is the first I’ve heard of this’.

Alberta politics is always sleepy during the summer; the legislature doesn’t sit in the summer months (and hardly at all in the fall, winter and spring months for that matter). But this summer should have been different, with the ruling PC party (again) electing a new leader.  So much excitement was guaranteed as a political dynasty attempts to reinvent itself and stave off an upstart enemy. What a saga! But like many a would-be summer Hollywood blockbuster, this race is a The Lone Ranger-sized bomb.

Just to refresh your memory, there are three candidates in the running. One of them is credible, and the guaranteed, first-ballot, overwhelming, lead-pipe cinch winner. The other two are jokes, cannon fodder, good-but-not-very-bright soldiers in the race so the party doesn’t entirely embarrass itself with a coronation.

The winner, in case you’ve forgotten, is Jim Prentice. When Prentice wins the PC leadership on Sept. 6, he will become premier despite never having held a seat in the Alberta legislature. Owing to the perverse nature of this leadership race, Prentice’s complete unfamiliarity with the Alberta legislature and the PC party is his greatest strength. The PCs are so crippled by their own reputation that the party is desperate to elect someone who hasn’t been tainted by the stink of hanging around with, well, them. Prentice fits the bill in other areas near and dear to PC hearts: he’s big in the oil community, he’s a Harper Tory, and he’s from Calgary. That’s the trifecta right there. (The little problem of not having a seat in the legislature will be solved when a certain ex-premier resigns her Calgary seat, and a byelection is quickly called. You heard it hear first, perhaps.)

The other candidates are two of the sorriest would-be leaders offered up by a major political party, anywhere, anytime.

There’s Ric McIver, known in Calgary and nowhere else. In his first term in the legislature, McIver managed to make virtually no impact on the public consciousness, but still felt compelled to run for the leadership. The biggest splash McIver made was when it was revealed that he attended a March for Jesus (which is not a bad thing, in that a lot of people like this Jesus guy), organized by a virulently anti-gay organization. When the only thing people know about you is that you’re a supporter of an organization that even the Wildrose party would distance itself from, you’re in trouble.

And then there’s Thomas Lukaszuk, the resident attack dog of the PC party. Oily and crass, with a creepy Euro-trash vibe about him, Lukaszuk is famous for picking a fight with a senior citizen while campaigning. Lukaszuk has benefited from the lack of passable PC MLAs from the Edmonton area, landing in cabinet several times. He was even the deputy premier for Alison Redford, (his primary job was fielding opposition questions in the most insulting manner possible) which tells you everything you need to know about Alison Redford. Lukaszuk is the token Edmonton candidate, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was encouraged by the party to run, just so that there would be somebody — anybody — from Edmonton.

The best this aging party could offer up is two non-entities and somebody who has no connection to the party. Prentice is clearly the party’s best hope — only hope — of extending the dynasty. Chosing McIver or Lukaszuk spells certain defeat in the next election. Which is not a bad thing at all.

The PCs scorched earth policy on Alison Redford

When Vladimir Lenin led the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, his right hand man was Leon Trotsky. When Lenin and Trotsky had a falling out — never a good thing in the old Soviet Union — the Communists altered photos of Lenin and Trotsky together, effectively erasing Trotsky from the historical record.

You can’t really do that kind of thing these days, but you can try. The Progressive Conservatives can’t erase the record of Alison Redford, but they’re doing their best to purge the party of the Redford “era”.

On Friday, the government released hundreds of pages of documents detailing more and more shocking abuses of the public payroll by Redford, the self-deposed premier.

After the CBC broke the story of the premier’s planned penthouse suite atop the Federal Building — directed by the premier’s office, bypassing all normal channels — the government unleashed a massive data dump revealing the extent of Redford’s profligate spending. Airfare and accommodation for premier’s bloated staff, more than a million dollars in severance packages for that same staff (almost all of whom were Calgary based, showing that her support network was very limited), callous disregard for the cost of flying her to her disastrous trip to South Africa — it’s all there. Cabinet ministers are lining up to piously pronounce just how horrible she was. Infrastructure Minister Ric McIver (coincidentally, a possible leadership contender) says he called off the premier’s suite program as soon as he took over the portfolio. The greasy Jobs Minister Thomas Lukaszuk (another possible leadership challenger who, if successful, would ensure the end of the Tory dynasty) called the suite “unacceptable”, saying it “broke all the rules of protocol.”

And I guarantee you there will be more to come. I’m sure that government staffers are going through every email, every memo, and every travel bill in its scorched earth strategy. If there’s a $13 glass of orange juice on a hotel bill somewhere with Redford’s name on it, we’ll hear it.

The PC strategy is clear — destroy Alison Redford. It’s not enough that she’s gone. They want her gone gone. Her imperial premiership has dealt the party a severe — perhaps fatal — blow, and the party wants its revenge.

I didn’t recognize the party’s hatred towards Redford until she resigned. Nobody said a good word about her. There were no tears shed. When she gave her resignation speech, one lone yahoo attempted to start an “Al-i-son!” chant, and got no takers.

Redford was an interloper, an outsider despite being a cabinet minister. Her support was a kilometre wide and a centimetre deep. Redford has announced that she will stay on as MLA. I don’t think she’ll be attending too many caucus meetings, or legislative sessions.