Sunday, June 03, 2007

KEVIN TAFT: ON THE MOVE

For Special Ed, these are tough times. Brutal, in fact. For the past couple of weeks, with a single exception, its been all bad news. Indeed, he picked up plenty of speed going down the steep incline towards the Harry Strom world of political oblivion.

Calgary's Mayor Bronco continued his deft attack against Special Ed's double cross on what should have been no-strings infrastructure money to Calgary.
Surprisingly, Eddie's Calgary Tory Caucus Chair David Rodney, MLA for Calgary Lougheed was caught stumbling in the wake of the Bronco onslaught. Rodney blamed obvious Tory difficulties in Calgary to Bronco's attacks on municipal funding. He also accused the Mayor of misleading Calgarians on the issue in an effort to get the Government to knuckle under to his demands. Rodney added loftily that, "He [Bronco] needs to remember he's the mayor of Calgary, he's not his (sic) majesty's loyal opposition." Pouring more gasoline on the fire, Rodney said the Mayor was betraying Calgarians by sabotaging the efforts of Calgary Tory MLA's. Bronco, for his part, rose in righteous indignation to demand Rodney cease the 'personal attacks,' and work to solve the problem. Rodney's whining was surprising for a formerly sure-footed, two-time conqueror of Mount Everest cum gung-ho motivational speaker. Happily for him he stumbled at the low altitudes of the Alberta prairies rather than at 28000 feet.

Finance Minister Lyle Oberg continued his reckless musings by implying that that the Task Force looking into the adequacy of oil and gas royalties going into Government coffers would likely decide that they were fine. According to Oberg, because of high cost inflation in exploration and development, the oil companies just would probably not be able to pay any more. Hence, the obvious question - why bother continuing with the Task Force? Ministers had to clean up the motormouth's mess so that the Task Force could continue to stumble to what the oil barons are sure to see as a positive and just outcome.

In the meantime, formerly friendly editorial boards of the major print media are becoming increasingly bellicose and threatening of the Special Ed squad. Columnist Rick Bell of the Calgary Sun has been on the Government's case for a long time. But he is now being joined by the likes of the Edmonton Sun's Neil Waugh.

And to add to Eddie's woes, Cameron Strategies, a market research firm headed by political strategist Bruce Cameron who honed his skills with the Angus Reid firm for many years, released some polling results. The Tories could only regard them as bleak. In the formerly unassailable Tory bastion of Calgary, Special Ed's team had dropped 19 points from January to May - to a measly 40%. In Edmonton, the news was hardly better - the Tories had dropped 8 points to 42%. Worse yet, Ed's disapproval rating in Cowtown had jumped from 18% to 39%. That last number, Cameron colorfully described as the 'first shoe dropping.'

The only good news for the Tories was Health Minister Dave Hancock's announcement that he had convinced the Government to finally ban smoking in public places and work sites, as well as to restrict the number of establishments that may sell tobacco products. Not only did Hancock accomplish this over the strenuous objections of many in the Tory caucus, it is the only coherent piece of important legislation brought forth so far by the Government since Special Ed took power.

In the meantime on the by-election front, Grit candidate Craig Cheffins' campaign to win Ralph Klein's old riding in Calgary Elbow, is humming along nicely. Grit troops from throughout the City and some from as far away as Edmonton are busily knocking on doors, the red signs are out in abundance and the money is rolling in. In Drumheller-Stettler, Tom Dooley, a popular rancher from the riding who pilots his own plane, has his whole family out in force as well as his many friends and supporters. He too senses change in the air, as he cheerfully scours the large riding for Grit support.

And just this Wednesday past, Leader Kevin Taft spoke to 400 of the faithful at a fund-raising dinner at downtown Calgary's Hyatt Regency. His message was simple, effective, thoughtful and well received, and - not to mention - timely. According to Taft, it was high time an Alberta Government had a plan - a plan to manage our wealth for present and future generations. How was it, he asked, that even though the Provincial Government have spent 93% of all oil and gas royalties that it has received in the last 25 years, we still lack schools, hospitals, roads, and affordable housing? And where were the policies on land use, a dwindling water supply and proper municipal funding?

There were Grits in the crowd alright. But there were plenty of old Tories. And they were listening carefully, and clapped vigorously at the end. This is not a dream. It is happening. Special Ed's nightmares continue.