As the by-election in Calgary Elbow reaches its climax, Special Ed is pulling out all the stops Tory-wise. Alas, there are not too many to pull.
One was the soon-to-be-forgotten Jim Dinning. The Tories surprisingly recruited Dinning for a little campaigning in Calgary Elbow. It was 'a little campaigning' alright. A feeble, nanno-second, photo-op door knock in the riding. That was about the only good news for the Tories in Calgary Elbow in recent days.
Apparently the still battered and bleeding Dinning, who fell during Special Ed's Hayseed Revolution last December in his bid to replace Klein, still feels some loyalty to the party that gave him the boot, notwithstanding his years of loyal and faithful service to the cause. Then again, maybe it was Dinning's last hurrah and he wanted to go out with some class - an attribute largely missing among Special Ed's forces.
The Premier had the usual Tory gall to use government operating cash for a late election propaganda pamphlet. To the tune of about $200,000 of taxpayer money, the government published a mail-out to show 1.3 million Alberta households just how much loot is being spent by Special Ed's team on Calgary and Alberta generally. Tom Olsen, now one of Eddie's in-house press flacks after years of working for the Klein government by writing his Calgary Herald Legislature column, told the public that the pamphlet was really no big deal. These "non-partisan" communications went out 3 times a year to show how government is working for Albertans, said Olsen. As his nose became more extended, Special Ed's Pinnochio said blithely, "Its got nothing to do with by-elections."
The Premier continued his campaigning by resorting to another traditional Tory election goodie - hospitals. He announced - for the fourth time - that the Tory government would pay for the new hospital in the south part of the city.
The construction of this hospital has a depressing, boring and irksome history. Back in 1998 when Ralph was in the midst of his deficit and debt reduction mayhem, blowing-up and closing down hospitals, he said that the hospital should be built 'fairly quickly.' In 2004 he presided over a ground breaking ceremony. In 2005, Ralph's government promised to pay the 500 million or so cost of it. Just 3 months ago in March, Special Ed promised to pay the full shot of 900 million. And now, Ed says once again that his government will pay the full cost - which now stands at $1.25 billion. He also says that it will be complete by 2011, 13 years after Ralph said it should be built 'fairly quickly.' And he is using this commitment on the by-election hustings in Calgary Elbow to attract votes. Strange, you say? Yes, indeed, strange! And stranger still, if the good burghers of Calgary Elbow fall for it.
In the meantime, uber-mountaineer and now Tory caucus chair, David Rodney continues to pummel away at Mayor Bronco. The two-time Everest conqueror told outstanding Calgary Sun columnist Bill Kaufmann during an interview that when people meet Special Ed, "they're instantly won over." About Bronco he opined that the Mayor was causing Tory approval ratings to go down because he wasn't grateful enough or obedient to the Tories. He also said that the Mayor's behaviour was such that he, Rodney, was having a hard time having a professional relationship with him - i.e. Bronco is unprofessional. One wonders if Rodney's personal attacks on a popular Mayor during a crucial by-election might be a manifestation of some high altitude vascular accident in his brain.
The week ended with Ed's neocon Sustainable Resource Development Minister, Ted Morton and Education Minister Ron Leipert making matters much worse. Morton revved up the battle with Bronco with a speech in Banff to some municipal leaders. Morton had the temerity to say that "Calgary by itself is a good, but not a great city." The Mayor, once again livid with righteous indignation, replied that Morton ". . . stood up there and ripped our city. . . . Calgary is a great city and I am offended." Of course, Morton could not leave the matter rest. He responded, "This shows the source of a lot of these polemics is a mayor who is far too thin-skinned." Naturally, the melee led to lurid headlines. The Herald Saturday edition of June 9 headline was: Mayor takes Tories to task." Not helpful at all.
Nor was it helpful to Special Ed and the Tories when Education Minister Ron Leipert announced that because of rising costs, and the rising value of the loonie, the province was feeling a financial strain. Thus, the people of Calgary should not expect too much in the way of new school construction. Lack of schools in new subdivisions has been a critical problem for some time now. With no end in sight, parents of small children who are bussed long distances every day are, and will be in the forseeable future, bloody angry.
In the end there was another piece of what could be interpreted as good news for the Premier. His predecessor, mentor, and patron Ralph Klein had a slough named after him. Oh, they call it a Park. Ralph Klein Park. But it is 30 hectares located in the 225 hectare Shepard Wetlands, located in south-east Calgary near the City limits. And so, its a slough.
And if that is the best thing that can happen to the Tories on the cusp of the Elbow by-election, well, I think Special Ed is going to lose this one. On Tuesday, look to Liberal Craig Cheffins taking Ralph's old riding away from the Tories.