Tales from the Tory crypt: Apres Alison le deluge

Posted on April 04, 2014, 1:33 am
9 mins

Tory leadership non-candidate Jim Dinning with your blogger, back in the day. Below: Former premier Ed Stelmach and non-candidates Ted Morton and Gary Mar.

If we were to speak for former Alberta premier Alison Redford today, here is what we would say: “Apres moi le deluge!”

There is plenty of fight left in the Alberta PC Party. The trouble is, it is all directed inwardly, at other Tories.

On everything except the policies that must be changed to save the party, Alberta’s crumbling 43-year-old Progressive Conservatives dynasty is disunited, playing out its increasingly bitter rivalries in public.

Given that, who could be found in possession of both an ounce of sense and $50,000 in spare change to step forward to be the party’s saviour? Count on it, the list of leadership contenders that actually joins the race will be both shorter and less impressive than the catalogue of candidates now being touted by pundits and the media. The numbers of ten- and even two-minute Tories persuaded to sign up and vote for them will hit historic lows as well.

Every day the list of promising leadership prospects no longer interested in the job gets longer.

The Opposition Wildrose Party – really just another faction of the same “conservative” family – is truly a “government in waiting now,” impatiently tapping its metaphorical toes and drumming its metaphorical fingers as it awaits the opportunity to beat the hapless Tories like the family mule and install Danielle Smith as premier.

Consider what the voices from the Tory crypt now making themselves heard are saying.

Yesterday in Regina, former premier Ed Stelmach, the one whose underachieving leadership now looks stellar compared with that of the catastrophic Ms. Redford, told an audience of Junior Achievers that “now’s a time for a leader with modesty (and) humility.”

Well, as the Bard said and Mr. Stelmach went a way to proving while in office, “nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility.”

Mr. Stelmach told the young Achievers that, in his opinion, it wasn’t Ms. Redford’s policies that got her in trouble, “it was just poor judgment.” Well, yeah, but it’s possible, isn’t it, that one flowed from the other?

Later today, presumably, interim Tory leader and Premier pro tempore Dave Hancock will be in the news lambasting Mr. Stelmach and taking the rest of Mr. Shakespeare’s advice: “…but when the blast of war blows in our ears, then imitate the action of the tiger; stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, disguise fair nature with hard-favor’d rage.”

Yesterday, as it happens, Mr. Hancock was busy responding to another former leadership contender who has been telling tales from the crypt: Jim Dinning, the front-runner in the 2006 contest who unexpectedly lost to the aforementioned Mr. Stelmach, who in turn became Alberta’s unlucky Premier No. 13.

Mr. Dinning had taken to the pages of the Calgary Herald on Wednesday, saying that any new PC leader would have to deal with a dysfunctional and entitled party – and advising everyone that he wasn’t going to be the one who saved the unsalvageable Tories. His message in a nutshell: “This party needs someone like me. Too bad it can’t have me!”

Whoever leads the party, Mr. Dinning said, needs to be an outsider. He went on to take a hard shot at Finance Minister Doug Horner, who is probably the most credible candidate still remaining inside the battered PC caucus and cabinet.

“Let’s return to the simple and clear accounting rules used to get our government back in the black,” Mr. Dinning said, a reference to Mr. Horner’s confusing new-math accounting that appears to have been invented to conjure up a desperate pre-election budget “surplus.”

He went on: “The budget is one of the most important things the government does, because it drives almost everything else. Albertans sacrificed a lot to have a debt-free future. We don’t want that hard work put at risk, and we should be able to understand the government’s books.”

By the end of the day, this had Premier Hancock on the defensive, sniffing that Mr. Dinning, a former finance minister under Ralph Klein, is entitled to his opinion, but that Mr. Horner’s scheme is a “very good and simple accounting process.”

“I sure don’t like that word entitlement,” Premier Hancock huffed. “I do not know anybody on any side of the house in any party who ran for personal gain and is there for personal gain.” (Eye rolls all ‘round.)

With the Herald now the go-to site for disgruntled former would-be Tory leaders, the previous Monday its pages were graced by another former finance minister and sometime leadership front-runner, Ted Morton, who is still the worst premier Alberta never had.

The PCs’ former chief party ideologue and separatist Firewall Manifesto signatory is now working as a teacher in the University of Calgary’s cult-like School of Public Policy. He was considerably harsher and more explicit in his judgments of the current PC leadership as he too ruled himself out of joining the 2014 lemming run.

Dr. Morton, who hails from California and Wyoming, ripped the latest former PC premier for relying on political advisors from Ontario as her political brain trust.

And he hammered Ms. Redford and Mr. Horner alike for the new accounting rules that Mr. Dinning also assailed. “You can’t say that you’ve balanced the budget when you are borrowing billions and only saving millions,” he complained. “The math doesn’t work.”

“For many PC faithful – I was one – this was our hallmark, the PC brand,” Dr. Morton went on. “We may agree to disagree on social issues, but when it comes to paying our way and telling Albertans the truth about how much we are spending, and how much, if any, we owe the banks – that’s untouchable.”

Ms. Redford and Mr. Horner, he grumbled, “threw that brand overboard.”

Dr. Morton’s pitch, in turn, can be summed up as: “You were stupid not to choose me, so nuts to you.” Nevertheless, it will resonate with the many former PCs who are now making their way to the Wildrose Party.

Gary Mar, the front-runner from 2011, had earlier ruled himself out of the race too, although with considerably more grace. Likely, though, Mr. Mar is thinking many of the same things as he wonders where his career will take him when he leaves his lavish exile in Hong Kong, which is bound to happen soon.

But this is only the beginning of what is certain to be long series of denunciations of the Redford-Hancock-Whoever Government.

Even unmemorable leadership aspirants entrusted with minor cabinet portfolios by Ms. Redford are turning on her, grasping for an ethical fig leaf by reciting insincere samokritika about the need “to re-earn the moral authority to govern” and the like. Sheesh!

Alison Redford opened the can and let loose the first wave of snakes. It’s only going to go downhill from here as the decision on who will lead the final PC government in Alberta history nears. The end is nigh.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

17 Comments to: Tales from the Tory crypt: Apres Alison le deluge

  1. Pat T

    April 4th, 2014

    I think there’s a typo. Surely you meant Ted Morton is the “BEST” Premier Alberta never had.

    Reply
    • Pogo

      April 4th, 2014

      Of all the worthless plutocrats who never had the chance to apply their tender mercies to us all, I would say that Ted Morton ranks right up there with Steve West. Or as my dear departed brother used to say: “worse than being buggered with a frozen condom”.

      Reply
  2. Pogo

    April 4th, 2014

    Would it be possible to interest any political party or independent candidate to campaign on a promise to remove political donations from our process? Let’s say elections were 100% publicly funded where my vote was worth $5.00 of the tax I pay. Net zero tax payers and others would ride free obviously but the candidates or parties would be paid post election by vote count. No corporate or private contributions and a mandated media equality policy requiring among other things a complete platform response to which ever party or candidate produced the most detailed platform. Candidates could be required to submit for vetting a resume. Independents would have to pony up their own unless they and their caucus partners chose to approve “affiliate” status. I’m sure we can come up with something better than this “dysfunction lite” that Alberta pseudo-cons have foisted upon us provincially and nationally. PS Dear Dipper; Get a fricking leader in Rose country with some chutzpah!

    Reply
  3. John Cameron

    April 4th, 2014

    I am reminding of a lyric by the great Ian Drury …

    “Shall I mourn your decline
    with some Thunderbird wine
    and a black handkerchief …”

    Reply
    • John Cameron

      April 4th, 2014

      D’uh – Ian Dury

      Reply
      • John Cameron

        April 4th, 2014

        D’uh d’uh reminded.

        With writing skills like this do you think I can find gainful employ with the PC’s new messaging department?

        Reply
  4. K. Larsen

    April 4th, 2014

    Excuse me, but Albertans have made their choice, just as the Norwegians did. With 60% more oil revenue than Norway, a similar sized population and abundant agricultural resources, Albertans chose to elect a collection of drunken thugs, bullies and three-piece-suit grifters. Norway chose to follow a social-democratic path and more than five years later started its own Heritage Savings Trust fund.

    Norway now runs a cradle to grave welfare state, has over $900 billion US in their Heritage fund, finances their whole society without oil revenue, and by all reports is a pretty decent place to live, work, and do business.

    Alberta has essentially nothing in the bank, a wrecked health, education, infrastructure, and welfare system, and a wholly discredited political and regulatory system.

    Now you tell me we plan to elect a somewhat more sober collection of thugs and bullies. YIKES!

    Reply
    • political ranger

      April 5th, 2014

      Voters cannot be ‘innocently’ naïve or ignorant here after 40 years of the same BS. There has to be an element of depravity, of criminality and of feckless cowardice consciously supported and even sought after by the Martha’s and the Henry’s out here.

      Reply
    • April 5th, 2014

      Norway has a $548 billion debt.
      Norway has a 25% VAT tax (read:PST)
      Norway has a 28% income tax
      If Alberta tried to do what Norway did with their oil, Alberta would have as big as an oil industry as Saskatchewan has today.

      Reply
      • K. Larsen

        April 5th, 2014

        Jeff: with all due respect, your assertions are not accurate.
        http://thetyee.ca/News/2012/08/15/Norway-Vs-Canada/
        http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2014/01/15/If-Every-Norwegians-a-Millionaire-Whys-Alberta-in-Hock/

        Here is an article with various links so you can inform yourself further. http://www.parklandinstitute.ca/blog/comments/price_norwegians_pay/BOOM/

        As to income taxes, so what? 28% would be a tax cut for most businesses and for individuals it seems a small price to pay for the benefits we have. Besides, income taxes are just an incentive for business to invest in more capital goods which stimulates the economy and makes the business itself more efficient and competitive.

        Progressive income taxes should replace VAT / GST because consumption taxes are taxes on the poor. Ditto for replacing capital gains taxes with a progressive income tax since almost all capital grains are really just a manifestation of government mismanagement of the economy. The 40 year amortizations on mortgages introduced by Harper’s Flaherty which inflated the present housing bubble come to mind.

        Perhaps if we had followed the late Premier Lougheed’s advice and resisted the temptation to blow everything out the door in one generation we would have been better able to address the environmental constraints which we now face.

        Reply
      • Pogo

        April 6th, 2014

        Norway has no net debt due to it’s $800 plus billion dollar sovereign wealth fund. It’s currently running operating debt at a ratio of 28.8% of GDP. I could go on about why debt in a low interest rate environment is wise and desirable when used for infrastructure development and how AAA credit economies can easily pay their low rates of interest expense with the increase in tax and fee revenue that good infrastructure brings, not to mention the simple concept that it never gets cheaper to build an asset and once built inflation increases it’s value, but why bother, it should be obvious to even the dimmest Dinning by now.
        Please look at the link to Sovereign wealth fund comparisons and behold the genius of Conservatism in all it’s glory as you scroll down (waaay down) the chart to the Alberta Heritage Trust Fund.
        http://www.swfinstitute.org/fund-rankings/
        Speaking of the raw genius of conservatism, isn’t it grand that we got rid of Petrocan and de-regulated utilities and telecom, before somebody could start all kinds of mischief?
        By the way, Norwegians are obsessed with data (link below is in English) and they measure and track everything. If I were say a political person or something I would benchmark Alberta spending against their numbers and get to work developing some policies to support increasing revenue.
        http://www.ssb.no/en/befolkning/artikler-og-publikasjoner/_attachment/146776?_ts=143c3b051c8

        Reply
        • April 6th, 2014

          Not seeing much of a rebuttal in these two posts. Just entrenched differences of opinion.

          One thing to consider is that Norway is it’s own country. They aren’t sending billions of dollars to Quebec every year for ransom money.

          Alberta being a part of Canada has cost us upwards of $100 billion over the years.

          Reply
          • Pogo

            April 6th, 2014

            You’re right Norway is a country and in addition to having state controlled banks that don’t rip off the citizenry they manage the 3rd highest spending % of GDP in the EU on international economic development and pay for armed forces so quite likely without the expenses of national responsibility they’d make our Conservative masters of all things fiscal and social look even more pathetic.

        • K. Larsen

          April 6th, 2014

          Thanks for the link to the wealth funds list Pogo.

          I see I was wrong to say Norway started its fund five years after Alberta. Norway actually started its heritage fund 14 years after Alberta. Proves the old aphorism that “nothing is ever so bad it cannot get worse.”

          Even third world dictatorships have larger funds based on less income than Alberta. Alaska has three times the amount Alberta does.

          Reply
      • Sam Gunsch

        April 6th, 2014

        Lougheed and Norway weren’t intimidated by Big Oil’s bluff that they’d leave.
        Alaska’s Palin has stood up to them more than AB’s political elite have since Lougheed.
        =======

        ===================
        http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2012/09/17/Radical-Peter-Lougheed/

        excerpt:
        2. Collect your fair share

        Smart owners don’t give away oil or any other depletable resource. Lougheed thought that low royalties were not only bad for the owner but encouraged Big Oil to be fat and complacent. One of Lougheed’s first moves as premier was to capture a much larger share of hydrocarbon profits. In his day that amounted to raising the owner’s share from 17 per cent of all non-renewable resource revenue to 40 per cent. Such increases boosted government income by $10 billion a year (and 30 per cent of that was directly saved for future generations). Industry, of course, called the man a cruel sheik and a “red Tory.” Higher royalties moderated the pace of production but also forced industry to be more innovative and competitive.

        Ever since then successive Tory governments have lowered royalties and thereby cheated the citizens of Alberta, the owners of the province’s hydrocarbons, of tens of billions of dollars. Today, Alberta collects less than 15 per cent of available non-renewable resource revenue. Governing parties in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Ottawa now shamelessly offer Big Oil some of the lowest royalty rates in the world for oil, heavy oil, natural gas, and shale gas. The direct consequence for ignoring Lougheed’s principle in Alberta is that libertarians have bequeathed the province with billion dollar deficits and the prospect of becoming a ghost town when economic hydrocarbons run out.

        3. Save for a rainy day

        In the 1970s Lougheed, a long-term thinker, established one of the world’s first sovereign funds or rainy day accounts. Given the finite nature of oil and gas, he believed in saving at least 30 per cent of the wealth for the inevitable economic deluge. Not surprisingly, Albertans wholeheartedly championed the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund. Norwegians copied and bettered the idea with their own pension/oil fund now worth $600 billion. ”

        =============

        On behalf of Alberta citizens, the owner’s of this one-time pot-of-gold that we are now giving away, Lougheed stood up to Big Oil and they didn’t leave during the 1970’s boom in oil prices.

        Stelmach did lead a principled effort on undoing Ralph’s legacy royalty/tax cuts via joint-venture corporatist government with Big Oil. However, after a couple decades of Klein/PC joint-venture with Big Oil, the political/petro class in Calgary and rural AB, took the side of Big Oil in believing the propaganda that Big Oil would abandon AB.

        Where would they go? 90% of the planet’s carbon is under government control.
        It was all B.S. And Lougheed had the political power and smarts to call their bluff in the 1970’s.

        They didn’t leave then. And they wouldn’t now.

        AB has been suckered by a corporatist governance model that puts the vested interests before the common good.

        Most importantly, in response to the Stelmach royalty review Big Oil bankrolled Wildrose’s launch process, and, severely cut donations to the PC party and the PC’s got the message.

        Stelmach never recovered sufficient political legitimacy to continue governing.
        All political parties in AB have never since made substantive statements about royalty revenue. They all got the message.

        Sam Gunsch

        Reply
  5. jerrymacgp

    April 6th, 2014

    Actually, with the dearth of declared PC Leadership candidates to date, and the fact certain high-profile prospects have declared their intention not to run, maybe the quote should be “après moi, la secheresse” (after me, the drought; not a deluge at all).

    Reply

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