Elections Alberta received thousands of complaints over robocalls used in the recent provincial election but neither the Tories nor the Wildrose party are ready to call for new legislation or regulations on the technology.
However, a national good-governance advocacy group says there are steps the province can take to deal with the concerns raised, which include the sheer volume of calls going to individual households and anonymous calls.
Tyler Sommers, co-ordinator for Democracy Watch, said Alberta could tighten the rules around what information parties can communicate using automated calls and require identification by a party in all cases where it uses the technology.
The province should also establish a registry of companies that provide automated calling services and beef up the investigative and enforcement powers of the chief electoral officer in such situations, he said.
Sommers said that even with a large number of complaints it is likely many more cases have gone unreported.
"It could be very much worse than it is and that's one of the reasons why we need the elections bodies to step up and ensure that the elections are fair and the rules are effective," Sommers said.
There is no provincial law regulating automated calls, meaning Elections Alberta was powerless to do anything with the complaints it received.
The use of robocalls has been controversial nationally because of allegations automated calls were used to misdirect voters from polling stations in some ridings in the federal election last spring.
The Wildrose party has made two complaints to Elections Alberta about robocalls during the campaign.
One relates to an automated call by the Alberta Federation of Labour, which Wildrose has suggested breaks provincial restrictions around thirdparty advertising.
The party is also alleging that calls falsely purporting to be from Wildrose were made to households in Grande Prairie and elsewhere at unusual times and at high volume, turning off potential voters.
During the campaign Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said the robocall technology was easily abused and that it would likely require vendors to be licensed and the disclosure of phone records after campaigns. She suggested she would speak to Prime Minister Stephen Harper after the election about new regulations.
But Shayne Saskiw, the party executive director who was elected in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills last week, said Tuesday the party believes that both situations it raised during the campaign can be dealt with through existing laws.
The jury is out whether new remedies are needed, he said.
"There's no point in creating new legislation if there's already enforcement mechanisms out there," said Saskiw, who was named Wildrose justice critic on Tuesday.
Sommers said that while federal legislation is pending it will likely apply only to national elections and provinces will likely have to introduce their own laws on robocalls.
Progressive Conservative campaign manager Susan Elliott said she also would be reluctant to endorse new regulations at this point.
She said the use of automated calling is in a sense "self-regulating." Overuse of the technology produces a sharp reaction from voters, causing parties to pull back on their use, she said.
Elliott also questioned the effectiveness of a company registry.
"I'm a conservative by nature, which means I have an automatic tendency not to think legislation is always the right answer," she said.
Deputy chief electoral officer Lori McKee-Jeske said it is too soon to say whether Elections Alberta will call for new robocall restrictions to be introduced when chief electoral officer Brian Fjeldheim prepares his report on the election campaign.
The independent agency has also not yet quantified the exact number of complaints it has received around automated calls beyond its earlier estimate of thousands, she said.
Calgary Herald, Wed May 2 2012
Byline: James Wood
How did the Alberta PCs win a majority in Monday's election when every poll for a month showed them behind the upstart Wildrose Party?
Simple: They united the left and scared the middle.
The Wildrose won 34% in the election — almost all of it from the carcass of the PCs. Those voters were the C in the PC party — the true conservatives.
But instead of trying to win those voters back, PC leader Alison Redford invited new voters into her party — the P's in PC. Progressives. Or, as they're usually called, Liberals.
In the last Alberta election, the Liberals received a hearty 26.4%. (By contrast, Michael Ignatieff's Liberals got less than 19% nationwide.)
Redford spoke to those 26.4% with a compelling argument: You'll never elect a Liberal government in Alberta. So why not vote for a party that believes in the same things, but just calls itself PC?
Redford said she would consider a coalition government with the Liberals or NDP, but not with the Wildrose. She couldn't have been plainer — she wanted Liberals to vote for her, and those frightening Albertans considering the Wildrose? Well, good riddance to them.
And it worked. The Liberal Party plunged to less than 10% this time. Most voted for the Liberal who could win: A PC named Redford.
It was a unite-the-left strategy, to keep out Wildrose.
When Tom Olsen, Redford's spin doctor, attacked the federal Reform Party and Deborah Grey on TV, true conservatives saw it as a gaffe. When Redford put out an ad mocking their "father's" PC party, when Redford specifically distanced herself from Ralph Klein's record as a fiscal conservative, it looked like a mistake.
But those weren't errors. Conservatives had long ago left the party. They were never coming back. It was all about attracting Liberals. And it worked splendidly.
That's how Redford won the PC leadership in the first place, by inviting in temporary Tories — teachers' union members who flooded in just for the vote, and who were immediately rewarded with a $100-million gift when Redford won.
She just did that again last week on a province-wide scale.
It almost didn't work. Because even with the addition of almost 150,000 Liberal voters to the PCs, the Wildrose briefly pulled ahead during the campaign, as Albertans took a look at their leader Danielle Smith and liked what they saw. But that's the thing — it was brief.
A few poorly worded comments from Smith's less well-known and less likeable candidates were the spark for a two-week bombardment of negative ads by the PCs and their liberal allies — including the Alberta Federation of Labour and its 1.5 million robocalls.
The massive attack in the last half of the campaign had its effect. It was enough to scare 10% of the Wildrosers back to the PCs.
It wasn't a pretty way to win, but so what — a win is a win. Final score: PCs 44%, Wildrose 34%. Which meant 61 seats to 17.
So Smith isn't going to go from being a novice to premier in one leap. But maybe she'll do it in two leaps. That's how Peter Lougheed did it. In 1967, his PCs only won six seats. Albertans wanted to size them up for four years before giving them a majority.
Or take Stephen Harper. In the 2004 federal election, polls briefly suggested he might win. Voters pulled back after a massive Liberal fear attack. But in 2006 — after a lacklustre term by Paul Martin, a term where Harper proved himself to be unscary — he finally won.
The challenge for now is Redford's: What rewards can she give her new Liberal base that won't drive the remaining true conservatives to the Wildrose? The next four years will be interesting.
Toronto Sun, Sat Apr 28 2012
Byline: Ezra Levant
For the first time in 91 years, the liberals have won an election in Alberta.
Yeah, sure, the name of the party that won a majority of seats last night is actually called the Progressive Conservative Party. But make no mistake, Alison Redford won last night's election in much the same way she won the leadership of the PC party. She appealed to both big and small-L liberals to back her. Her strategy worked, obviously.
Big public sector unions, like the members of the Alberta Federation of Labour, took out ads and robocalled much of the province urging all "progressive Albertans" to keep the Wildrose Party out by voting strategically for the PCs.
During the last provincial election, the AFL urged its members to vote NDP. My, how things change.
Videos of young people swearing and saying that though they hate to do it, they're voting PC, is another example of the political left throwing their support behind a party that has long been their most hated enemy.
What's interesting about the commentary of this historic election is how many pundits are declaring this a "crushing" defeat for the Wildrose. But that's sophistry. In just a little more than three years, an upstart party with a leader who has never sat in the legislature gave the oldest political dynasty in Canada's history a real fright. That's a huge win in many ways.
As Danielle Smith said last night during her concession speech, "change might take a little longer than we thought."
But as she pointed out, "today I stand at the helm of the official opposition." Not bad for a party that was born out of the anger of the oilpatch because of the changes former Premier Ed Stelmach made to energy royalties.
Smith admitted in her speech in her riding of Highwood in High River last night that she was disappointed. "Am I discouraged?" she asked rhetorically. "Not a chance."
Remember, just a little more than one month ago, predictive website threehundredandeight.com stated that the Wildrose would win only 17 seats — which was considered a healthy gain for the upstart party that was expected to win maybe 10 seats late last year, if they were lucky.
They won more than that last night, but the numbers weren't official at deadline. That some polls had her winning a majority up until Saturday, meant that the Tories should have learned a lesson. But they likely won't.
Had Smith and her advisers spent more time focusing on the cronyism and corruption that plagues the PCs today, it's possible they might have been able to pull off the upset. But another C-word crept into this campaign — clowns — as in bozos.
The so-called "bozo eruptions" by two Wildrose candidates took Smith off message and off her game. But that's not all. Many of the Wildrose policies simply represented too much change, too fast. Smith and her party must now re-examine their platform and make adjustments away from the ones that unsettled too many Albertans.
The Wildrose would have done well to heed the wise words of Dalton Camp when he said: "In my experience, governments are not defeated. They must grab themselves by their own lapels and hurl themselves from office."
The Tories did that to themselves. But the Wildrose hauled them back in, mostly owing to the disgraceful, bigoted comments by those two Wildrose candidates that Albertans simply won't abide.
While Redford may have won the election — and many Tories are relishing this hard-fought win — the Tories should be humbled by what happened last night. But don't count on that. After so many examples of corruption, arrogance, bullying and entitlement, it's likely many in the party will assume it's business as usual. Why change something that's worked for them repeatedly?
So, Redford will proceed with her national energy strategy. Just imagine what a political football that could wind up being — should Quebec's separatist PQ government win the next provincial election in la belle province.
Redford, if she keeps her promises — which thankfully, she doesn't always do — will spend billions more than she budgeted to spend in her deficit budget, which she passed just days before dropping the writ.
Last night in her victory speech, Redford made no mention of the party being humbled at all. Why would she? They won at deadline time 61 of a possible 87 seats. That's less than Ed Stelmach won in 2008, but with voter turnout much higher, it can be viewed as a much stronger mandate.
So, the big unions, the big spenders, the social engineers and the nanny statists finally have won power in Alberta.
The big difference now, compared to years past, is there will be a strong opposition party on the right holding this government to account.
Calgary Herald, Tues Apr 25 2012
Byline: Licia Corbella
Merit Alberta and the Wildrose Party have filed complaints with government officials claiming that the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) is violating election rules with a province-wide telephone poll.
"AFL President Gil McGowan is leaving robocall messages attacking the health care policies of the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose Alliance parties," said Merit Contractors Association president Stephen Kushner.
"This is clearly political advertising, yet the AFL is not registered as a third party advertiser as required under the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act."
The AFL conducted an automated telephone poll that called about 1.5 million households or every number in the Alberta phone book from April 17-18.
"It wasn't a political advertisement, it was a political poll," said McGowan.
"I find it ironic that the complaint was made by the Wildrose party, which purports to stand for freedom of speech. I guess this only applies to people who want to talk about gays and lesbians falling into a lake of fire, or people who say Caucasians are better suited for leadership positions than people of colour or climate change deniers, but not to medicare."
He was referring to comments made by some Wildrose Party candidates in the lead up to the election.
When someone in a household answered their phone, the automated poll asked them to participate in a political survey or poll.
If the call went to an answering machine, McGowan left a message that said unions have been at the forefront of the fight to build medicare and protect it from those who want privatize it for profit.
"If you care about medicare, Wildrose is not the answer," he said in the message.
"Their spending promises can only be advanced with major cuts to healthcare and education. Please don't support a party that would destroy medicare as we know it."
Both Merit and the Wildrose Party argue that this telephone poll is a form of third party political advertisement, so the AFL should have registered with Elections Alberta. Violators of the law can face fines of up to $100,000 in court.
"This is yet another example of union leaders spending mandatory union dues on advertising and political agendas that are likely not shared by their members at large," said Kushner.
In response to McGowans claims about medicare, the Wildrose Party said it supports the public health care system and has no plans to have it privatized.
According to McGowan, however, Wildrose is committed to using public funds as seed money to facilitate the growth of corporate for-profit care.
Elections Alberta is investigating the provincial telephone calls after receiving numerous complaints.
"We are not the only group out there using this technology, but we are one of the few that make it clear who is doing the phoning," said McGowan. "We wanted to tell people, who is delivering the message and we have nothing to hide."
In 2008, the Progressive Conservative government legislated a gag order to stop organizations such as the AFL — who represent several unions and employee associations — from advertising during a provincial election.
During the 2008 provincial election, the Alberta Building Trades Council and the AFL sponsored a campaign, which questioned the leadership abilities of Progressive Conservative leader Ed Stelmach.
The AFL then launched a second campaign, which sent 130,000 homes direct mail with the message that the Progressive Conservatives lack direction on oil patch development and the environment.
In response, the National Citizens Coalition and Merit Alberta launched a counter attack, which said unions are forcing workers to contribute to political ad campaigns and are using their dues to finance non-workplace activities.
Union leaders did not disclose the cost of their campaign, but is has been reported that the cost was about $2.5 million for prime-time TV spots, full-page newspaper ads and direct mail.
Some Wildrose Party members have been making waves in the lead up to the provincial election.
A year-old blog post recently surfaced from Wildrose candidate Allan Hunsperger, who is running in Edmonton-Southwest. Hunsperger wrote in the blog that gays and lesbians would end up in an eternal lake of fire, if they didn't change their sexual orientation. He also characterized the public education system as godless and criticized the Edmonton Public School Board's policy of protecting sexual minorities from bullying.
Ron Leech, who is running for the Wildrose in Calgary-Greenway, said on a Calgary radio show that he had an advantage in the election race because he is Caucasian.
Journal of Commerce, Mon Apr 23 2012
Byline: Richard Gilbert
EDMONTON - Wild predictions of eight or more seats died out as results rolled in for the NDP Monday night, but the party still doubled its number of MLAs.
NDP Leader Brian Mason called four seats a "bittersweet" victory.
"I'd hoped for more. I think we had some excellent candidates and they were very close," Mason said. "But we have four. That gives us official party status and we can be that voice in the legislature that stands up for public health care."
NDP supporters crowded around the TV screens at the Coast Edmonton Plaza Hotel late into the evening as many tight races kept updating. A victorious David Eggen brought back the mood of celebration when he walked in and got the crowd chanting. Eggen was leading by 541 votes with 77 of 81 polls reporting. Newcomer Deron Bilous also knocked out incumbent PC Tony Vandermeer in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview by a narrow margin.
NDP incumbents Mason, in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood, and Rachel Notley, in Edmonton-Strathcona, won their seats easily earlier in the night.
Edmonton-Gold Bar candidate Marlin Schmidt walked in with a glum face, but the crowd cheered him anyway. He lost a tight race against Tory candidate David Dorward. Shannon Phillips also fell behind in Lethbridge-West, despite her endorsement by popular former mayor Bob Tarleck.
The NDP had hoped for a strong third-place finish to give them the balance of power in a minority government, but the strong showing by the Progressive Conservatives eliminated that possibility.
"You never underestimate the PCs," said Notley, whose win was declared just 40 minutes after the polls closed.
Getting the balance of power was a long shot anyway, said Brian Stokes, party provincial secretary. "A minority or majority, we ran on principals and we'll promote them in the legislature."
Edmonton Journal, Mon Apr 23 2012
Byline: Elise Stolte
With polls predicting a Wildrose government, several groups went public this week pleading with Albertans for anything but.
The Alberta Federation of Labour called every Albertan with a landline phone over three days earlier this week, conducting a poll or leaving a message on answering machines suggesting that both the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties are wrong on health care.
"Many of you are justifiably angry with the Conservatives, They have brought us bed shortages, doctor intimidation, creeping privatization and a broken long-term care system, but if you care about medicare Wildrose is not the answer," said AFL president Gil McGowan in the message.
The message states the Wildrose intends to create a two-tiered system.
"They are committed to using public funds as seed money to facilitate the growth of corporate for-profit care."
The AFL has been a sharp critic of the ruling Conservatives, but in the recorded message McGowan argued the Wildrose are no better.
"On election day don't forget how badly the Conservatives have handled health care, but please don't support a party that would destroy medicare as we know it."
McGowan said the recorded message was left only when their calls didn't connect with a person. When a person answered the phone they were given a poll on issues around health care and the Wildrose platform.
Wildrose leader Danielle Smith countered the attack and said the party doesn't believe Albertans are concerned about how they receive health care, only how they pay for it.
"We believe that as long as a person doesn't have to pull out their credit card or their chequebook to pay for care that it doesn't matter to them if they go to a hospital or a private clinic to get their treatment."
She said their plan is not privatization and will actually improve the public system.
"Anyone who will go on our website, look at our platform and our wait time guarantee, knows that we are committed to the principles of the Canada Health Act."
McGowan said the recorded message is not a reluctant endorsement of the Conservatives over the Wildrose, but is a rebuke of both right wing parties. He said he wants medicare protected and both parties have worrying records.
"I have no confidence that the Conservatives will do that, based on their track record and based on the roster of people in the party."
He said he is pleased to see Albertans are prepared to change the government, but he doesn't think the Wildrose are offering real change.
"They have finally got up the courage to vote out the Conservative party, but they are putting their hopes on a party that will make a bad situation even worse."
The AFL's move comes as other groups are also calling for an "anybody but Wildrose" movement. A video entitled "I never thought I would vote PC" was posted online and calls for left-wing voters to hold their nose and vote Tory to prevent the Wildrose from forming government.
Smith said voters should look for themselves at her party's platform and decide if it represents them.
"I hope that they will look at our policies and will look at our platform and vote for the party that best represents their views on where Alberta has to go."
She said regardless of the outcome, she expects Monday's vote to create a better legislature that isn't dominated by one party.
Alberta has legislation that requires third party groups to register if they conduct political advertising, but McGowan argued the AFL campaign is in fact a poll and not an advertisement.
"It is a poll and we left a message for those who didn't get the live call."
St. Albert Gazette, Sat Apr 21 2012
Byline: Ryan Tumilty
Flanked by her team of Progressive Conservative candidates, Premier Alison Redford fired up cheering supporters at rallies in both Edmonton and Calgary Saturday to mark the final push ahead of Election Day on Monday.
A room in Edmonton's Expo Centre was transformed into waves of orange and blue Saturday morning, as roughly 200 supporters hoisted placards in the air and chanted "vote PC, vote PC."
Redford spoke to the crowd with 24 of her candidates lining the stage behind her, all of them clapping and cheering.
"It's fun being in a room like this with all of these people, talking with Albertans, listening to what Albertan's are saying, for me is really energizing - I enjoy it," Redford said Saturday morning in Edmonton.
"It is something that is a tremendous privilege and it's an experience like I've never had before and I have enjoyed every minute of it."
Redford is hoping to spread that PC enthusiasm this weekend, but won't be appealing to NDP or Liberal supporters to back her party to prevent a Wildrose victory.
"I am going to keep doing what we've done because what we're talking about is a positive message for the future of Alberta that we as Progressive Conservatives believe will impact the way people decide to vote on Monday," Redford said. "At the end of the day, it is their choice as to who to vote for on Monday when they go into that ballot box."
"We are going to continue to be positive and constructive and talk about public health care and education and infrastructure and our place in the world and we are very optimistic for Monday."
Even though polls are showing Calgary is coming up Wildrose, Redford doesn't seem concerned about losing representation in the city.
"Certainly, talking to our candidates in Calgary, they are very optimistic. I think we are going to see good representation for us as Progressive Conservatives across the province and we are going to carry on with doing the service that Albertans ask us to do."
But it wasn't all positive for Redford in Calgary. During a photo op at a Sobey's grocery store, she was asked to leave.
On Saturday, Redford also addressed reports that some third party advertisers, like the Alberta Federation of Labour, are being investigated by Elections Alberta.
"I think it's unfortunate — this has been a very heated campaign," she said. "As we move ahead I am sure they will do their job and I would just ask everyone to remember that we need to keep a civilized tone and follow the rules."
Redford and her team will continue to rally the troops in Calgary on Sunday when they stop at several more local campaign offices.
She is also looking forward to spending some time with her daughter, Sarah, ahead of Monday's election, who she says has been a very patient 10-year-old, while she has been away from home travelling around the province for the past 26 days.
Calgary Sun, Sat Apr 21 2012
Byline: Lisa Mrazek
EDMONTON - A live audience heckled and booed Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith at a leader's debate Thursday after she said she isn't convinced that climate change is real.
Smith, the front-runner in the race to become Alberta's next premier, was poised and unflappable despite the deafening jeers from the crowd.
"We've been watching the debate in the scientific community, and there is still a debate," Smith said. "I will continue to watch the debate in the scientific community, but that's not an excuse not to act."
Smith said she is frustrated by the climate change debate because politicians set impossibly high targets then do nothing to achieve them. She said the Wildrose will take a different approach, putting in place "constructive policies" that reduce overall emissions.
"Having consumer rebates, so people can make home renovations, do energy audits, switch to micro-generation, get a new hybrid vehicle or natural gas, switch to natural gas powered electricity," she said. "All of these things will have a really positive impact on reducing greenhouse gases, reducing overall toxic emissions and also saving Albertans a little bit of money."
She also chastised the Progressive Conservatives for wasting $2 billion on the province's carbon capture and storage program.
Her political opponents piled on.
"Rebates are not going to fix this problem," NDP Leader Brian Mason said. "The science is completely settled. The only people who are disputing it are the phoney scientists funded by the oil industry.
"We need to get serious about it, and we need to have some hard caps on (carbon) emissions. We need to move away from coal-fired electricity generation and we need to fund transit in a big way in this province. ... Denying the science of climate change is just foolish."
Progressive Conservative Leader Alison Redford said denying climate change will undermine Alberta's reputation on the global stage.
"When I go to Washington, and I talk to people in the White House, on Capitol Hill, and I'm trying to talk to them about why we need Keystone, they don't want to hear that I don't believe in climate change.
"They want to know that they have a premier and a leader from our province who understand that this impacts our markets, this impacts our investors, and if we don't take it seriously it's going to impact our economy and our way of life."
Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said the province must put a real price on carbon.
"If we put a real price on carbon, and have the big emitters decrease to 50,000 tonnes a year instead from 100,000, we will generate $1.8 billion a year four years from now," Sherman said. "Half of that goes to industry to green their technology, half of it goes to municipalities on a per-capita basis to green their transportation."
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, the Alberta Party acknowledge that climate change is real and proposed a move away from coal-fired electricity and increased emissions standards and steps to more prudently manage water.
A Pembina Institute study released in December said all of Alberta's climate-change strategies put together will cut emissions by 14 megatonnes by 2020, less than one-third of the goal of 50 megatonnes.
The institute issued six recommendations, including a substantial increase to the price of carbon (to $30 per tonne from $15) and requiring companies to pay tax on all of the carbon they emit — not just the current 12 per cent.
The institute also called on the government to "moderate the rate of approval" for new oilsands facilities and to implement stringent, mandatory greenhouse gas intensity standards for those that are approved.
Edmonton Journal, Fri Apr 20 2012
Byline: Karen Kleiss
CHESTERMERE - With polls showing a significant possibility of a minority government following the April 23 election, speculation has begun on whether some newly elected MLAs might cross the floor to either the Wildrose party or the Progressive Conservatives.
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said Wednesday she's heard some northern Alberta PC candidates have told voters they will switch parties should the Wildrose win the election.
"I can tell you our candidates up there aren't very impressed by that and I don't think voters are going to be impressed by that," said Smith, who did not name the PC candidates in question.
She indicated Tories who try to cross the floor after the election may not find a welcoming environment from a Wildrose government.
"We had the door open for a period of time. We had only three former PC MLAs who ended up coming over (Rob Anderson, Heather Forsyth and Guy Boutilier) and so we closed the door and we moved forward with our terrific team. I'm more focused on getting each one of my Wildrose candidates elected."
PC nominees in northern and central Alberta called the rumours of defections ridiculous.
"You've got to be kidding," Bonnyville-Cold Lake candidate Genia Leskiw said. "There are too many things in the Wildrose party I don't believe in, and when a constituency elects you as a member of a certain party, you should stick with it."
To the south in Battle River-Wainwright, candidate Doug Griffiths said the story sounds like a "trial balloon" being floated by Smith in case she winds up in a minority government.
"With her poll numbers going down, I think maybe she's getting desperate," he said. "I don't know any of my PC colleagues who would consider that. There is strong dislike for the Wildrose tactics."
Still, as Mount Royal University professor Duane Bratt notes, politicians are undoubtedly thinking about what the legislature might look like under a minority government. Such a scenario would put Alberta into uncharted political territory, forcing all MLAs and party leaders to make a number of difficult strategic decisions, he said.
Bratt said in a minority regime, it's more likely that PC members would cross the floor to the Wildrose than the other way around.
"If you are a Wildrose guy and you have just brought the PCs down to a minority situation, you will be playing for time to win the next election," Bratt said.
"But I could see PCs leaving a sinking ship," he said. "As a big-tent party, you have people in the PCs because it's power. So if power starts to shift ..."
But even if some PCs offer to cross the floor, Smith must decide whether it is strategically wise to accept them. Bratt said such decisions have to be handled on a case-by-case basis. One condition would likely be that a Tory must have strong conservative credentials to join Smith's team.
Another opening might occur if a Tory is needed to fill a geographic or regional hole in the Wildrose caucus.
"Let's say we have a Wildrose minority with no MLAs from Edmonton, which is a scenario that could happen," Bratt said. "The Wildrose might be willing to take an Edmonton MLA willing to cross the floor."
Bratt said NDP or Liberal bluster about holding the "balance of power" in a minority government is more fiction that reality. He pointed to recent minority governments at the federal level, in which Prime Minister Stephen Harper used an "ad-hoc relationship" approach that saw him stay in power by seeking support from either the Liberals or NDP on different issues.
"If you look at those governments, who would you say was the more powerful leader, Stephen Harper or Jack Layton?" Bratt said. "It wasn't Jack Layton."
In Alberta, the same sort of fate could await NDP Leader Brian Mason or Liberal Leader Raj Sherman, he said. As for a PC opposition in a minority, they, too, would be limited in what they could do.
"You'd get these sort of ultimatums, with the Wildrose daring the Conservatives to go to the polls again when they don't have a leader," said Bratt, suggesting that current PC leader Alison Redford would likely resign if her party loses power.
He said the "ad-hoc relationship" Harper used is the most common form of minority government in Canada, and the one Smith has indicated she will use if elected as a minority premier.
As an alternative, two or more parties could consider forming a fixed coalition, which hasn't happened in Canada since the First World War, Bratt said.
Another possibility would be a formal agreement between a senior and junior party, in which the junior partner does not sit in cabinet but agrees to support the other party on all confidence motions for a set period of time.
A fourth option involves a "loose alliance" in which there is no written agreement but a ruling party could count on backing from an opposition party in exchange for movement on some of that party's issues.
Jeff Johnson, the Tory candidate in Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater, said no matter what kind of legislature develops after the election, he knows of no PCs planning to join Smith. He said when Smith won the Wildrose leadership in 2009, there were reports that as many as 12 Tory MLAs would join her party.
"No one crossed then. Two eventually did, but right now I can tell you I am in pretty constant contact with my colleagues in the north, and there is no appetite to join the Wildrose."
Edmonton Journal, Fri Apr 20 2012
Byline: Kevin Gerein
Alberta Liberal candidate describes Wildrose candidates as 'homophobic,' PCs as 'corrupt/incompetent/bullying'
Wildrose candidates are "homophobic, climate change deniers" and "bigots" while the PCs are "corrupt/incompetent/bullying" and "senior neglecting," Liberal Leader Raj Sherman shot out to the Twitterverse this week.
His comments, re-tweeted by dozens of supporters but decried by others as feckless and overly negative, are the latest in an increasingly rough-and-tumble campaign that has other party leaders calling for a return to civility.
"It's really just silly and it's beneath Raj to do something like that," Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said Wednesday.
"We need to ratchet down some of the rhetoric and focus on what this campaign is supposed to be about. It's supposed to be a robust discussion about ideas and a big-picture discussion about where our province is headed."
No one from the Progressive Conservatives was available to comment on Sherman's tweet. But the Liberal leader did not back down from his 140-character assessments of both the Wildrose and PC parties, who he also said are hell-bent on privatizing education and health care.
"I could have written those tweets more eloquently," he acknowledged in an interview. But "do you think Raj Sherman has ever been one to mince words?"
"I challenge anyone to say what I said wasn't true."
Sherman's tweet comes the same week Edmonton Wildrose candidate Allan Hunsperger made headlines when a blog he wrote last year warned homosexuals they will suffer for eternity in a "lake of fire."
Calgary Wildrose candidate Ron Leech was in the spotlight for stating during a weekend radio interview he thinks he has an electoral advantage because he is "Caucasian" (he later apologized, saying the comment didn't reflect his true feelings on the matter).
Sherman has also criticized Smith for saying the science on climate change has yet to be settled, and has attacked the Tory government for its decision not to hold a full inquiry into physician intimidation.
His tweet is not unusual in the lawless world of Twitter, it's just not language usually heard from a party leader.
But with his party polling between nine per cent and 12 per cent in Calgary and Edmonton - traditionally strong centres of support - Rebecca Sullivan, a professor of cultural studies at the University of Calgary, said Sherman's comments are a "Hail Mary" pass.
"It's very unusual for the political leader to get their hands dirty," she said. "They usually have operatives do that for them."
Sullivan said as use of Twitter and other quick-moving social media in-creases, so will concerns about civility in political discourse. But she added Sherman's words will speak to some Alberta voters.
"This wasn't a 3 a.m. tweet that he then has to turn around and apologize for. It's a Hail Mary pass, and it's one that's grounded in a series of headlines," she said. "He may actually get some votes out of it."
Sherman's tweet follows Mayor Naheed Nenshi saying on Tuesday he was disappointed by Leech's comments. On Wednesday, Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel also called on the Wildrose leader to "clearly refute" comments by her party's candidates about race and homosexuality.
"It's not representative of Alberta or Albertans," Mandel said.
In Calgary on Wednesday, Calgary Chamber of Commerce CEO Adam Legge said it's important the city be seen "as an open, welcoming com-munity."
"Anytime you exhibit or have a portrayal of yourself as being less tolerant, you have a potential to jeopardize economic competitiveness," Legge added. "We need to do everything we can to position Alberta in a positive light."
Calgary Herald, Thurs Apr 19 2012
Byline: Kelly Cryderman