PHOTOS: Tough, skeptical questions from the crowd in St. Albert, top and bottom. In the middle: NDP candidate Marie Renaud, PC MLA Steve Khan, Wildrose candidate Shelley Biermanski, all running in St. Albert, and Spruce Grove-St. Albert Alberta Party candidate Gary Hanna.

ST. ALBERT, Alberta

Math is difficult.

MarieRWho would have thought a churlish reply like that would become the touchstone for this election campaign?

But there it is. Not the mirror the premier advised us all to look into, but Jim Prentice’s quarrelsome debate-night countercheck has become the official meme for this campaign, cited again and again by opposition politicians at the St. Albert all-candidates’ meeting tonight and most likely at other meetings of the same sort throughout the province.

When Mr. Prentice aimed that barb at NDP Leader Rachel Notley, it merely sounded condescending. And Ms. Notley, a skillful debater, parried it with ease.

KhanBut somehow it stuck, symbolic of the Prentice Progressive Conservatives’ own difficulties with simple math – especially the arithmetical conclusion a lot of Albertans seem to be reaching these days that the PCs’ excuses for where all the oil money’s gone don’t quite add up.

We haven’t saved as much as Norway, St. Albert MLA Stephen Khan weakly explained to a packed meeting room at the Public Library last night, because, unlike that Nordic land, “Alberta is not a country.” This prompted a low moan of discontent throughout the room, which I’m coming to think of as the sound of rolling eyeballs.

NewShelleyB Democrat Marie Renaud got about the loudest laugh of the evening with her observation “math is hard” in response to one of Mr. Khan’s excuses. But I think every other opposition candidate in the room used the line once or twice to good effect, and usually winning a hearty chuckle from the crowd, which was polite but not particularly sympathetic to the government.

I’d be worried if I were a PC – it can’t be a good sign when the reaction you prompt in almost everybody is mirth.

Mr. Khan and Rus Matichuk, the PC candidate in Doug Horner’s old Spruce Grove-St. Albert riding, tried to fight a war of numbers on two fronts against Ms. Renaud of the NDP and Shelley Biermanski, a former two-time candidate for mayor who is running for the Wildrose Party.Dood

Cheap shot of the night went to Mr. Khan who noted that Ms. Renaud doesn’t live in the riding – she’s worked here 12 years and lives nearby in West Edmonton. The grumbling in the room was audible – and not just from me.

I don’t think the packed room was buying the Tories’ arithmetic.

After all, math is difficult.

Calculus is darned hard.

And with groups like Change Alberta suggesting that progressive voters in St. Albert rally behind Ms. Renaud, the electoral calculus for the Tories could even turn out to be impossible!


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  1. Yes, the PC’s seem to have a handle on math being hard. It seems that the PC’s have been deluding themselves for years that when you:

    – pay all of the infrastructure costs of oil sand development (with no effective accounting of the actual costs of building the infrastructure;
    – keep reducing the royalties that these same companies pay for a resource that will eventually run out;
    – tie the limited royalties you do collect to the price of the product, so that they can keep producing as they pay even less royalties than before
    – charge the absolute lowest taxes to these companies
    – accept the company’s claims that any changes to taxes or royalties will cause these companies to pack up and leave

    That you are getting the best deal possible. I think my 4 year old granddaughter could figure out that this financial trickery is simply BS – that if you collect less and less, then you eventually don’t have enough to buy ice-cream. But somehow our PC governments for the last 44 years have bought into this flim flam by the oil companies and sell it to us.

    We could look at similar smoke and mirrors math in regards to infrastructure (yep – let’s build all those expensive projects while costs are highest), ‘providing’ the same schools and hospitals over and over again while hoping nobody notices that these are leftover promises from campaigns past, MP’s salaries as being reduced while ignoring the huge increases given just a few months earlier. And there are so many other examples of the PC’s finding math to be hard.

    Of course the rival pretenders to the right wing throne also find math hard. The WRP still have not explained how rescinding all of the recent PC taxes and firing 3200 managers will some how bring sunshine and prosperity. The math works out to a possible $500,000,000.00 in savings – far cry from the 5 billion required.There is also that pronouncement that the PC tax increases will cost each and every family $2,500.00 in new taxes – I know that my family neither makes enough to pay the full health care tax, nobody smokes, we drink sparingly and even though we drive many kms we couldn’t possibly pay that much more in gas. Then there is that strange WRP health care guarantee that will ultimately benefit the few who can afford to pay to travel when they are ill and where the province will likely drive up the costs of medical care ultimately costing everyone more. Again the list of difficulty with math goes on and on.

    The PC’s and WRP seem to have more problems with math than the average fifth grader – but both are oh so willing to blind themselves to their own failings in order to cast aspersions on others. I guess I could close with a comment about mirrors, but like the math question it is all too easy.

    It is time for a new vision in politics for Alberta and neither the WRP, nor the PC’s have anything but worn out platitudes to give us.

    1. This is what passes for journalism?

      I think the article should be prefaced with a byline that states, This advertisement is paid by the Wildrose Party.

      1. I don’t remember you complaining about the article Graham Thompson wrote about Rachel Notley. But, I’m sure I just missed it.

        1. We complain about sycophantic so-called news articles about the Wildrose because this party is detrimental to the interests of all Albertans who want to sustain a decent and caring society where everyone has equal access to opportunities.

          It is a false equivalency that argues we must also do the same when the NDP are in the news. It’s not the NDP that is worthy or criticism at this time. It is in fact the PCs and their fascist brethren the Wildrose.

          1. You complain about the quality of journalism when you disagree with it, but don’t question the quality of the journalism when you agree with it, even if it’s the same writer. Look, I agree that Alberta would be much better off with a NDP government and even worse off with a Wildrose government, but if you are going to call a journalist gutless, or whatever other clever adjective you can come up with, then you better be consistent. He’s a gutless sycophant when you disagree with him but he isn’t when you like what he writes. It’s behaviour like that that greatly reduces any credibility you or your arguments might have. And, if I might offer a little advice, using words like fascist to describe the members of the Wildrose is pretty much a foolproof menthod of ensuring that nobody takes anything you say seriously. There are a lot of things wrong with the Wildrose party, but calling them fascists is about as ridiculous and insulting as calling supports of tthe NDP communists.

    2. 3 days ago the McLeans Magazine had up an article on the board meeting of the Wild Rose Party (300 of them, how many from he US not mentioned) They decided not to change their platform. That means the corner stone of their cost cutting is sill doing away with transfer payments. They don’t say it will take 5 other provinces on side to pull this off and those provinces just are not there!

      That means in turn #Brian Jean doesn’t have a platform! Their web site targets a couple hundred million in things they consider a waste but nothing like the billions that were to come from stopping the transfer payments.

      Brian Jean is out to get elected and he doesn’t much care how.

      1. Don’t transfer payments come out of Federal Income taxes sent to Ottawa by individuals and companies?

  2. Northern Loon; Fantastic post- It would sound like you are focusing on a reasoned sensible discussion , free from junk , slander, name calling, distortion,, .. I have supported the PC party in the past… But in sober consideration… Really a party that embarks on ALARMIST Language…. They are pulling the FEAR FACTOR….. I think that is so disgusting.. American type politics… Comment about the Extremist parties… and THE NDP is an Extreme Party. and .. oh yes we can’t even talk about royalty reviews? Really Jim… 1st act insulting, then act like it’s a GOD Given right to RESTRICT Conversation. Humm I can think of people that leaned toward censorship in history… And where it led ( Spain, or Argentina etc ). I don’t support all of the policy of the NDP.. but I do appreciate the calm reasoned Debate/ Conversation Approach.. I sure hope there are enough people to vote for change.. One thing for sure, The PC party here in Alberta are the most successful of staying in power in the ENTIRE Country. (prove me Wrong) One thing for sure I would accept that all of that success was not based on pure luck but rather skillful conduct. (again the math skills could be weak… but the number of seats in the house are a pretty clear measurement of success in my mind) Experts in Shaping Public opinion, and experts In Demonizing any and all decent.

  3. Notley commented on the CBC who in turn will not allow me to post since Harper took over the organization. She says Prentice is fear mongering on royalty.

    Every cent the oil industry gets in environmental assessment comes out of our royalty money. As I write this note, the oil companies are paying 15% as a carbon tax. We are getting zero for for royalty. Prentice has built a house of cards.

  4. Two planks of the Wildrose platform drive me nutty. First, there’s the whole rant about “government waste, too many managers”, etc. Of course waste of public dollars should be minimized as much as possible, although laying off some of those much-maligned managers can make that harder to do, since their job is the kind of oversight needed to keep tabs on spending; but there is no way they can find the billions of dollars, and that’s “billions” with a ‘b’, needed to fill the revenue gap caused by decades of PC mismanagement and kowtowing to the oilpatch.

    Secondly, there’s federal transfer payments and equalization. NOT ONE THIN DIME OF ALBERTA PROVINCIAL TAXES GOES TO OTTAWA OR THE OTHER PROVINCES!!! This is a myth perpetuated by Western isolationists and separatists. It’s our federal tax dollars, just like those of all Canadians, that are pooled together and shared with the provinces and territories. And Alberta is scheduled to get about $5.5 billion dollars from Ottawa in this way in the next fiscal year, or $1,600 per capita (the same per capita as BC & Saskatchewan, BTW). So this is a meaningless item.

    1. Well said. I had a Wild rose rep in Chestermere Alberta who told me provinces volunteer to give this money. He had no clue about anything to do with the WRP platform; not a clue. WRP are in trouble in more ways than one.

  5. How fragile our Alberta is. How quickly the ruling clique blamed citizens, punished the caring and sheltered oligarchs. Everything changes and nothing changes.

  6. I was at the forum this week. I did not hear Stephen Khan say anything out of order to any of the other candidates. It was obvious to anyone who has met him he would not have ever intended to insult any of his fellow running mates. He simply pointed out the fact the NDP candidate for St. Albert does not actually live in St. Albert. I do not see how this fact is not relevant. There has been ample opportunity for this to come to light but it’s been a point which has been avoided.

    I do not see why this could be viewed as a ‘cheap shot’. St. Albert has had MLAs from the NDP, Liberals, to the PCs. Each and everyone, however, has lived in this city. Our representative needs to have a first hand knowledge of what it means to live in the city they represent. It is very different to arrive in the morning and leave in the evening. Indeed many of us work in Edmonton but that probably doesn’t mean we have full knowledge of what it’s like to live there.

    Mr. Khan has a reputation for handling himself with class and dignity. As the incumbent MLA and the focus of most of the candidates’ attention I thought that Mr. Khan acquitted himself very well and was the candidate who offered the most substantial and informative answers. I believe he certainly lived up to his reputation.

    If Marie Renaud or any of the NDP supporters in attendance view Mr. Khan stating the fact that she does not live in St. Albert as a “cheap shot” I would suggest we take a step back and examine what we want from our St. Albert MLA.

    1. Hardley a cheap shot; more a comment. I agree Mr Khan is a Stirling individual but see nothing wrong with the comment. If you want cheap shots take a look at Mike Duffy!

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