Exhaustive province-wide poll shows Albertans don’t support Wildrose plan to use public money to finance expansion of for-profit health care
McGowan urges voters to reject both conservative parties and, instead, support parties that will "go to the wall" to keep Medicare public
Alberta voters are clearly turning away from the Conservatives, but a massive poll conducted for the Alberta Federation of Labour over the past two days shows that most Albertans don't support one of the main platform promises made by the front-running Wildrose party (click here for poll results).
At the heart of Wildrose's so-called Wait Time Guarantee is a promise to use public funds as seed money to facilitate the expansion of corporate, for-profit health care. Wildrose leader Danielle Smith has said that a Wildrose government would consciously and deliberately encourage the development of a parallel, for-profit health-care sector.
She says such a sector will improve health care by introducing more choice and competition – even though experience and research from around the world (and even right here in Alberta) shows that for-profit delivery of health services costs more and delivers lower quality care.
"We were concerned that in all the enthusiasm to get rid of the Conservatives, who clearly have been in power far too long, Albertans haven't been looking closely enough at what the Wildrose has to say about health care. That's why we decided to do the poll," says AFL president Gil McGowan.
"Well over 26,000 Albertans from all over the province responded to the survey, and the vast majority – 57 per cent – told us that they are opposed to using tax dollars to expand profit-driven health care. Only 15 per cent support the Wildrose idea of funding for-profit care with public money. Twenty-eight per cent were undecided. If we look at just those who have made up their minds on this issue, 79 per cent are opposed to public money going to for-profit health care. What the poll shows is that there is no meaningful support for the Wildrose prescription for health care."
In addition to releasing the poll results, McGowan is also circulating an open letter to Albertans, urging them to reject both of Alberta's conservative parties and, instead, vote for parties that actually believe in Medicare and will "go to the wall to defend it."
"The notion that people should vote for the Conservatives to stop the Wildrose and defend Medicare is ludicrous," said McGowan, explaining the rationale for sending the letter.
"This is the party that brought us Bill 11 and the Third Way. More importantly, if the Conservatives lose, as they seem likely to, then the party will almost certainly move to the right to chase the supporters they've lost to the Wildrose. They will also almost certainly turf Alison Redford and replace her with someone much more conservative. Do you really want to rely on someone like Ted Morton to stand up for Medicare when it's under attack? Frankly, that's a nightmare situation. When the fight to preserve Medicare comes, as it almost certainly will with a Wildrose government, then we need parties and MLAs who will stand up to the Wildrose, not join in the carnage."
The AFL's province-wide survey was conducted April 17 and 18 by the firm Public Polling. 26,487 Albertans from all regions completed the questionnaire, meaning the survey has a very small margin of error (plus/minus 0.6 per cent 19 times out of twenty).
For more information call:
Gil McGowan, President @ (780) 218-9888 (cell)
EDMONTON — With just three days until Monday's vote, many Edmontonians may be caught in a dilemma — do they vote Progressive Conservative for the first time to stave off a Wildrose victory, or do they vote for the opposition party they have traditionally supported?
The strategic voting factor is looming so large in so many minds it seems to have spooked opposition leaders, who have much to lose if their voters abandon them for the Conservatives.
Liberal Leader Raj Sherman, NDP Leader Brian Mason and Alberta Party Leader Glenn Taylor all started warning Albertans this week not to vote negatively but rather positively — for the candidate who best represents their values. That's code for: "Stick with us."
Mason put it bluntly at the CBC leaders' forum in Edmonton Thursday: "Voting for one right-wing party to keep the other out is foolish."
Sherman's party, meanwhile, created a website this week — toryorwildrose.ca — to highlight the similarities between the two right-of-centre parties.
But those appeals may be falling on deaf ears.
"I'm hearing a lot of Liberals and New Democrats talking about maybe biting the bullet and voting PC to stop the Wildrose," says Dave Cournoyer, a left-of-centre blogger and creator of the popular website Daveberta.ca.
"I'm hearing a lot of people talking about how they don't see any difference between the PCs and the Wildrose, so they're going to vote strategically for the progressive candidate who can win the riding.
"Or they're going to vote their conscience and vote for the party that they actually want to vote for and throw the strategic voting thing out the window."
The Liberal base, about 25 per cent of the 2008 popular vote, is vote-rich territory for the Tories looking for a bulwark against the Wildrose. There are signs that base, in Edmonton, is slipping: In the capital, the Liberals were down to 13 per cent in a recent Edmonton Journal-Calgary Herald poll, while the New Democrats polled at 17 per cent of decided voters. The Wildrose and Tories were polling at 33 and 35 per cent in Edmonton, respectively.
While the Wildrose campaign team is downplaying strategic voting as "Tory spin," leader Danielle Smith urged voters Thursday to vote with their hearts.
"It's very clear that the PCs are hopeful that the Liberal and ND support will migrate over to their party (but) I think people should vote on what they truly believe," Smith said, suggesting Alison Redford won the Progressive Conservative leadership last fall because she drew support from the more left-wing parties. "I think because it worked for her in the PC leadership, she's hoping it will work for her in the general election."
Earlier this week, a group of social activists and actors in their 20s created an online video called "I never thought I'd vote PC," featuring a handful of young people prepared, with regret, to vote for the Conservatives. "I would rather have my face eaten off by rodents" than vote for the Tories, quips one young man, before urging voters to choose anyone but the Wildrose.
In Edmonton, an advocacy group called ChangeAlberta.ca is trying to convince progressive voters in 42 key ridings to rally around a single opposition candidate rather than split votes among the Liberals, NDP, Alberta Party and EverGreens.
But even their efforts are being side-swiped by strategic voting aimed at staving off the Wildrose, organizer Alvin Finkel said. Combined support for the traditional left-of-centre parties appears to be shrinking in the polls compared to ballots cast in 2008.
That's surely a sign of Liberals deciding to vote Conservative, Finkel said, a trend that undercuts his group's efforts to elect progressive candidates.
Edmonton-Glenora may be one of the tightest races in the city. But with five high-profile candidates, making a "strategic" vote is near-impossible. Current cabinet minister Heather Klimchuk is running for the Progressive Conservatives, former MLA Bruce Miller for the Liberals, former school board trustee Sue Huff for the Alberta Party, political stalwart Ray Martin for the NDP, and former mayoral candidate Don Koziak for the Wildrose.
"I think people are really, really torn," Huff said. "It seems like the closer we get to the election, the more undecided people are. ... People are very, very afraid that, it's like, 'Well, I may just have to hold my nose and vote for someone I don't want because I really, really, really don't want the Wildrose in.' "
The Conservative candidate in Edmonton-Rutherford, Fred Horne, could potentially benefit from strategic voting in his tight race. But the current cabinet minister said no one is raising the issue on the doorsteps.
"I always ascribed to the notion people want to vote affirmatively, they want to vote for something," Horne said. "In the end, it's everybody's individual choice."
Liberal Arif Khan is trying to hold onto the Edmonton-Riverview seat won by former Liberal leader Kevin Taft against strong Tory candidate and police officer Steve Young. Worried that he could lose voters to the Tories, Khan put out a new pamphlet in the last week of the campaign showing that the Liberals have the best chance of beating the Wildrose in the south Edmonton riding based on voter turnout in the last three elections.
The NDP in Edmonton-Gold Bar are also taking a strategic approach in an effort to elect Marlin Schmidt in the riding formerly held by longtime Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald.
"New Democrats are generally not huge supporters of strategic voting," said campaign manager Lou Arab.
Still, he thinks Schmidt is a front-runner, though he has no riding breakdown of recent polls. "We've started putting out some information about where the polls stand in Edmonton, what we think is the shape of the race, which is very much that you can vote for Marlin Schmidt knowing that he has one of the best chances of any of the so-called progressive parties today."
Liberal candidate Josipa Petrunic can make a convincing case herself, however, as the strategic progressive candidate: Edmonton-Gold Bar has been held by the Liberals since 1986.
Cournoyer said people who talk about Alberta politics online — on websites, on social media sites like Twitter or Facebook — are already engaged in politics and have likely decided who they will vote for. Strategic voting may hold less interest for voters with less interest in politics.
"The big question is the people who aren't hooked into social media, and engaged in politics 24-7. How are they going to vote on election day?" Cournoyer said. "Are they actually going to think about strategic voting? Are they actually going to vote for who they want, or are they going to vote to change the government?"
Edmonton Journal, Thurs Apr 19 2012
Byline: Sheila Pratt and Trish Audette
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
But seat projections for Danielle Smith Wildrose majority come with big caveat
The Wildrose party would win a healthy majority government with 50 to 60 seats, based on the results of the latest public opinion poll, says an analyst renowned for the accuracy of her seat projections.
But Janet Brown, a public opinion research consultant, said her prediction comes with a big caveat.
The model she uses to do seat projections shows half the province's 87 ridings have a margin of victory of less than 10 per cent.
"At this point, unexpected events can have a big impact and the get-out-the-vote efforts of individual parties could have a big impact," Brown said in an interview Wednesday.
"So I'm sort of prepared to say that it looks like it's going to be a Wildrose majority, but I'm not necessarily prepared to say it's definitely going to be a Wildrose majority," Brown said.
A Leger Marketing poll, commissioned by the Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal, shows Wildrose with 42 per cent support among decided voters while the Progressive Conservatives are at 36 per cent.
The survey, conducted between last Friday and Monday, shows 10 per cent support for the NDP, nine per cent for the Liberals and two per cent for the Alberta Party.
Brown's seat projection ranges would indicate a fundamental reshaping of Alberta politics.
The Tories - in power continuously since 1971 - would be reduced to somewhere between 23 and 33 seats. The Liberals, the official Opposition in the last legislature, face the possibility of being wiped out with a range of zero to three seats.
The NDP stands to win somewhere between two and five ridings.
Brown, who accurately predicted the 72-seat Tory win in 2008 and was a couple seats off in 2004, said she's less confident in her forecasts this time around because the provincial political scene is "a whole different kettle of fish" compared to the years of the Tory dynasty.
Wildrose - which won no seats in the 2008 election though it held four in the last legislature because of defections and a byelection win - has essentially risen from obscurity, she said. As well, three of the four parties have rookie leaders.
The Leger telephone survey of 1,200 Albertans has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points 19 times out of 20.
The timing - the survey was conducted between April 13 and 16 - means some respondents would have been aware of the furor over an Edmonton Wildrose candidate's anti-gay blog.
But the polling was completed before CalgaryGreenway candidate Ron Leech landed in hot water after saying he had an advantage because he was Caucasian.
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said her party is staying focused on winning a majority government in the final days leading up to the April 23 vote.
"We are wanting to win 44 plus seats but it is very, very close," she told reporters in Chestermere Wednesday.
"I think we've identified 23 constituencies where it's very, very close and we want to make sure that we want to give that last-minute support to our candidates. We want to do what we can to be able to help people make up their mind," said Smith, adding that she would travel over the coming days to seats where she can help push candidates over the top.
An e-mail sent to Tory supporters from the PC campaign said the Leger poll was good news for the Tories because of the tightness of the race, especially in Edmonton and Calgary and the large number of undecided voters still left in the latter days of the campaign.
PC Leader Alison Redford said she wouldn't comment on the numbers, but the final four days of the campaign will be crucial.
"What we're talking about right now . . . is Albertans looking at the people they think they want to lead their province, how they want their province to be represented in Canada and how they want their province represented in the world," she said.
The Liberals may be lacking the funds of the two larger parties but are undaunted by poll numbers and ready for election day, said Leader Raj Sherman. "We have local teams that have identified a lot of local voters and they are going to get the vote out," he said.
New Democrat Brian Mason said Wednesday he still expects some voter intentions to change in the time between the poll and election day. "Just taking a brief snapshot in time, it's interesting, but it's not going to reflect the final result," he said.
Calgary Herald, Thurs Apr 19 2012
Byline: James Wood
EDMONTON — No matter which party wins Monday's election, there's bound to be change in the ranks of the civil service — deputy ministers shuffled, bureaucrats transferred, positions eliminated, new people hired.
No surprise, then, that there's tension in the air in the office towers around the legislature and across the city, where public servants nervously go about their jobs while voters figure out who their bosses will be.
While some people are dusting off resumes, others are closely following campaign talk about wage freezes, cuts to civil services and unnecessary layers of management in Alberta Health Services — all wondering what it will mean for them.
The prospect of a Wildrose victory — the first change in government in 41 years — causes more uncertainty, raising the prospect of wholesale change in a bureaucracy that has worked under the Conservative party for decades.
"Everybody's pretty worried," said one front line worker, who declined to be identified for fear of losing her job.
"All parties have made so many expensive promises, will they balance the budgets on the back of the civil servants?"
While the Wildrose party has clear plans for a smaller bureaucracy, every new Conservative premier in the past two decades has brought change to the civil service.
Last October, with little public notice, new Premier Alison Redford let go nine deputy ministers, shuffled a handful and hired four new ones within weeks of taking over. Before her, Ed Stelmach had imposed hiring and wage freezes.
All that, of course, pales in comparison to former premier Ralph Klein's cuts in the mid-1990s, which saw 10,000 civil service jobs chopped as he set out to "re-engineer government."
The job losses had a major impact on the capital city, not to mention many families — though some workers were rehired by private companies when government work was privatized.
Guy Smith, president of Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, which represents 21,000 government workers, said his union "will build a relationship with any new government." But he cautions the next government against moving in with "wholesale change."
The AUPE leader said he's pleased that Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith promises to hire more front line workers, specifically hundreds of nurses and 100 more RCMP officers. "She recognizes the front line staff has not kept pace with population growth," he said.
But the AUPE boss also wonders where the Wildrose will cut, and said he suspects, as the Wildrose appears to, that there's fat in the management ranks.
(About 8,000 public servants, mostly managers, are not members of AUPE.)
While the Tories and Liberals talk about "finding efficiencies" in the bureaucracy or eliminating unnecessary programs, Smith told the Journal a smaller bureaucracy is "absolutely" in the works if her party wins.
But the Wildrose won't use the Klein model of swift, across-the-board cuts, she said. "We have to be more compassionate."
"We happen to have an opportunity to do this because of demographics, with so many of the baby boomer generation retiring," said Smith. Under new management structures, those people won't be replaced, she said.
Smith said she's not worried about taking over a bureaucracy some say is Tory friendly after 40 years. She is not contemplating "wholesale kind of change," because the values of the two parties are not that different, she said.
"We're talking about measures people have come to expect from governments — balanced budgets, surplus to manage and maintain a low rate of taxes," said Smith.
"Government change happens elsewhere and there is expertise across the country where they have managed this kind of change. I have no doubt there will be a lot of people who can lend a hand."
In the end, the civil service will be happier, she said, with more support on the front lines.
In the days after the election, the most vulnerable will be the powerful deputy ministers, who are appointed by cabinet.
Gary Boddez, one of the career civil servants let go in Redford's reorganization last fall, said it make sense for senior civil servants to be nervous at election time. They are key appointments made by cabinet and new faces would help a new government put its stamp on things.
"Deputy ministers have to be prepared to be moved, it's just a fact of life," said Boddez, who spent 37 years in Alberta's public service.
Cabinet ministers want trusted deputies to help devise new policies and implement change, he said.
Redford's shuffle of deputy ministers caught the civil service by surprise, according to one government insider. It wasn't just about reducing numbers, since she hired four new ones.
While deputy ministers are highly qualified professionals, it can be tough for them to find new jobs in the private sector, said one bureaucrat. Many companies that do business with government would be reluctant to hire someone the government has let go.
On the other hand, some at the senior level speculate that a Wildrose government may not make big changes initially because it will need experienced people to back up an inexperienced caucus and cabinet.
Edmonton Journal, Wed Apr 18 2012
Byline: Sheila Pratt
CALGARY — As the Tories and Wildrose parties fire off accusations over how the other intends to manage public services, Alberta's unions are now dividing between those willing to endorse a party and those who are not.
Some groups, like the Canadian Union of Public Employees (backing the NDP) and the Calgary Police Association (behind the Tories) are making their views well known.
And the Alberta Federation of Labour has a telephone push poll on health care where president Gil McGowan scolds the PCs and warns against a Wildrose plan to "destroy medicare as we know it."
The automated calls are drawing ire of the Wildrose, which says it has no plans to privatize the system. It says it will file a complaint, and Elections Alberta is already looking into the poll for possible violations of third-party advertising rules.
But some of the province's biggest unions, including the large Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, are not endorsing a party or wading into the same type of antagonism, despite the heated rhetoric and one of most competitive provincial election in four decades.
The onrush of negative, union-backed advertising faced by Premier Ed Stelmach leading up to the 2008 election has not been repeated heading to the April 23 vote.
Mount Royal University political analyst David Taras said a combination of new, third-party advertising rules and a more cautious wait-and-see approach is making for a quieter union presence than four years ago.
"They're being very careful," Taras said. "There isn't this onslaught."
The Wildrose has pledged to cut the number of senior managers and push money into front-line services, something backed by the AUPE.
However, the union says the plan to freeze wages for all public employees until the province gets back into surplus is a non-starter.
The Tories have accused their Wildrose counterparts of planning to cap spending to the extent that health care and education will suffer.
But the PCs have faced scrutiny from the Alberta Medical Association, which has criticized some of Redford's health care plans.
Meanwhile, the NDP accuses the PCs of planning cuts of their own by privatizing certain services. The Liberals have said they want to slash wasteful spending.
AUPE president Guy Smith said he doesn't fear whatever government comes next, largely because the union is far better organized than when the public service got a bruising during deep cuts under former premier Ralph Klein in the 1990s.
But if the Wildrose wins, Smith said the party will need some time to get its feet wet in government, and is urging them to hold back on any purge of upper management at the civil service.
"If they clean those out, then there's going to be a lot of uncertainty and instability in the public sector in services already a little fragile, as it is," Smith said.
In this city, the Calgary Police Association has endorsed the Tories.
Association president John Dooks called PC Leader Alison Redford "gutsy" for introducing various legislation, including new penalties for drivers with a blood-alcohol level between 0.05 and 0.08.
"She's shown the courage to do what was right when (it) was needed, not just what was popular," Dooks said.
But he said it's difficult to gauge what kind of sway the endorsement might have.
In the 2010 municipal election, the association got behind Ric McIver in the mayoral race. McIver was ultimately defeated by Naheed Nenshi, who at one point in the campaign got into a spat with the police chief over policing costs.
The Alberta Federation of Labour is spending roughly $20,000 on an automated poll, where households are asked if they support the Wildrose health care plan.
If the listener indicates no, a recording of AFL president Gil McGowan tells listeners they may be "justifiably angry" with the PCs over of bed shortages and doctor intimidation, and warns against the Wildrose, which he said will only bring "major cuts" and "corporate, for-profit care."
It's the type of phone call that has peeved both Tory and Wildrose supporters, but McGowan said his organization only wants Albertans to "think long a hard" about supporting either party.
"We're medicare advocates and we're deeply troubled by the positions on public health care that are being taken by both of our province's conservative parties," he said.
The poll has drawn the attention of Elections Alberta, which is taking a hard look at whether it breaches any legislation.
"We just like to look at the facts, and the allegations, and see what contraventions, if any, there are to the legislation before we go into a full investigation," Elections Alberta spokesman Drew Westwater said.
Calgary Herald, Wed Apr 18 2012
Byline: Richard Cuthbertson
Wildrose point to maverick MLAs ousted by Conservatives
The Wildrose party's $1,000 "good conduct" bonds for those who attempted to win a party nomination are "undemocratic," says Progressive Conservative Leader Ali-son Redford.
"I think that if you have a political party and you have people that run for nominations, that those people I presume are still members of the party, are still entitled to have points of view," said Redford, campaigning in Calgary on Sunday.
Redford was commenting on the Wildrose policy of holding back a $1,000 deposit paid by each person who ran but lost a party nomination race. The cheque will be returned after the election if they don't "sabotage" or speak out against the winning candidate, according to party Leader Danielle Smith.
"I don't know what they would or wouldn't say but the fact that as a party they're worried about that, I find ridiculous," Redford added.
Edmonton-Castle Downs PC candidate Thomas Lukaszuk, said Wildrose claims to be the party of free speech have no credibility given the $1,000 no-talk bond.
"An election is exactly the time for dialogue with the voters, yet these party members are not allowed to talk?" said Lukaszuk. "How can you reconcile that party policy with their claim to free votes and an open caucus?"
Wildrose organizer and senate candidate Vitor Marciano downplayed the internal party rule, saying they borrowed it from the federal Conservatives.
Stephen Harper's party put the rule in place after the 2004 federal election, said Marciano, who worked for the newly unified party at the time.
In that election, some Conservative party members who failed to win their nomination race then went out in the election campaign and publicly endorsed the Liberals, said Marciano.
"We thought it was a good rule so we brought into to our party," said Marciano.
He also brushed aside suggestions that the bonds are an infringement of free speech.
"You can say what you want, but you will lose the $1,000."
"This is about party discipline before the election," he said. "Once they are elected, MLAs are obliged to represent every-one in the constituency."
Marciano said for the Tories criticize the $1,000 bond is "ludicrous" since that party that has kicked out of caucus MLAs like Guy Boutilier who dared to speak against the party line.
But Lukaszuk questioned why the party does not let local MLAs take part in election debates and requires them to check in with the party's headquarters before they can speak to the media.
Instead, party relies on "a few trusted operatives" like Marciano who has been appearing at some all-party debates, including three forums on education in Edmonton - even though he is a federal candidate, said Lukaszuk.
"Education is 100 per cent a provincial responsibility, yet I was debating a federal candidate," said Lukaszuk.
Marciano said since forums were not tied to local constituencies, it was decided he would be the spokesperson.
The Progressive Conservative party does not require a deposit from members running in a nomination race, party president Bill Smith con-firmed. Some constituencies may require those who enter the race to pay $500 to help defray the costs of the nomination process.
The Wildrose good con-duct bond is "highly unusual and speaks for itself," Smith added.
The rules for a leadership race are different, Smith said, and the party requires a $15,000 deposit from the handful of candidates running in that contest.
Jim Lightbody, a political scientist at the University of Alberta, said he doesn't think the $1,000 bond is a major issue in the campaign and would not prevent party members from speaking out if they felt strongly about an issues.
"The Wildrose have a lot of new party members who are aren't sure of their footing or skilled in the political arts," said Lightbody. "And they have a lot of sharp people running the campaign."
- A day-by-day list of 2012 campaign activities, focused on party leaders and Edmonton-area candidate forums.
Contact Journal reporter Sarah O'Donnell by email at sodonnell@ edmontonjournal.com or on Twitter @scodonnell to add an event to the list.
Alberta Party Leader Glenn Taylor
- Campaigning in Edmonton be-fore returning to Hinton
NDP Leader Brian Mason
- Campaigning in Lethbridge be-fore heading back to Edmonton
PC Leader Alison Redford
- Campaigning in Calgary
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith
- Campaigning in Edmonton, Nisku, Devon and Camrose
Edmonton Journal, Mon Apr 16 2012
Byline: Sheila Pratt
Personal views don't reflect policy: Smith
With a week to go in the most hard fought Alberta election campaign in decades, hot-button moral issues again put the front-running Wildrose party on the hot seat.
All four major party leaders were in Calgary on Sunday - a key battleground of the race - fanning out in visits to ethnic and religious communities, making new announcements and hammering home key points of their platform.
But it was Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith who attracted the most attention, refusing to condemn an online posting by one of her candidates decrying tolerance toward gays and lesbians, but reiterating that her party won't legislate on contentious moral issues.
In a June 2011 blog post, Edmonton-South West candidate Allan Hunsperger, a pastor with The House church in Tofield, referenced the Lady Gaga hit song Born this Way and said gay people can choose "to not live the way they were born."
"You can live the way you were born, and if you die the way you were born, then you will suffer the rest of eternity in the lake of fire, hell, a place of eternal suffering," he wrote, adding that "accepting people the way they are is cruel and not loving."
In the post, Hunsperger condemns the Edmonton Public School Board's policy calling for a safe and welcoming environment for all students, including those who identify as lesbian, gay and transgender.
Asked about the writing, Smith noted the party won't legislate on such social issues but said Hunsperger was free to hold his personal views.
"When a person is making personal statements in their capacity as a pastor, which he was, I don't think anybody should be surprised that they're expressing certain viewpoints," she said to reporters outside the Calgary Hindu Society's temple.
"We've communicated on this, that we will not be legislating on contentious social issues. He understands that. He accepts that."
When asked if there are personal opinions beyond the pale for the party, Smith did not directly answer.
"Look at our party platform. The things that we focus on are the things on which we agree," said Smith, who a day earlier had accused the media of being upset there had been no "bozo eruptions" among Wildrose candidates.
"We accept that people have a broad diversity of viewpoints but the way we get along is that we focus on the things on which we can agree."
By mid-afternoon, the blog post had been removed and Hunsperger had written a new entry addressing the issue, saying he had been speaking as a pastor about his personal religious viewpoints.
"I fully support equality for all people, and condemn any intolerance based on sexual orientation or any other personal characteristic," wrote Hunsperger.
Robyn Haugen, Hunsperger's campaign manager, said he was unable to talk Sunday.
Progressive Conservative Leader Alison Redford said Hunsperger's original comments were "shocking."
"I think that it's absolutely wrong. Of course I disagree with it, and the fact that these are people who think that that's a legitimate perspective just absolutely blows my mind," she told reporters at an event at Calgary's Sikh temple.
Redford said the situation speaks to who would make up a Wildrose government. "Take a look at who you want to represent you. What do they believe?"
Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said he would not allow a Liberal candidate with Hunsperger's views to run for the party.
"I'm shocked and disappointed that a man of the cloth would make these comments," Sherman said at the McDougall Centre, where he proposed a revamp of the province's election system. "Jesus would not make these comments."
NDP Leader Brian Mason - in Calgary to talk about electricity regulation - said Smith had to answer for Hunsperger's statement.
"Do those comments by that candidate constitute an embarrassment to the Wildrose party and to her?" he said.
Since the writ was dropped, Smith - who describes herself as prochoice and pro-gay marriage - has had to fend off accusations the social conservative component within Wildrose would lead the party to wade into areas such as abortion and gay rights.
Faron Ellis, a political scientist at Lethbridge College, said Smith has done a skilful job with what have been "generic responses to generic situations."
But the tangible nature of Hunsperger's comments - and the fact they touch upon an area of provincial jurisdiction - may make it a lightning rod in the last week of the campaign, he said.
"She has to go further in some kind of condemnation of that type of statement," said Ellis, who noted Smith also does not want to alienate social conservative voters.
Meanwhile, Redford was supposed to hold an event Sunday afternoon with Alberta PC icon Peter Lougheed - who strongly backed Redford publicly two days earlier - but it had to be rescheduled.
Redford said she was touched by Lougheed's public endorsement and the party had not asked him to weigh in.
But Smith said it was "tragic that it was considered news for a former leader of the PC party to endorse the current leader of the PC party."
"We've put forward a positive campaign, talking about the issues that matter to Albertans. We're going to continue that in the last week."
Calgary Herald, Mon Apr 16 2012
Byline: James Wood, with files from Chris Varcoe and Bryan Weismiller and Sheila Pratt
CBC poll suggests Progressive Conservatives trailing Wildrose
A poll conducted for the CBC shows the Wildrose Party has a seven-point lead over the Progressive Conservatives just a week before the Alberta election, but it's edging towards majority territory.
The Return on Insight telephone poll found Wildrose has a commanding lead in rural areas, the most support of any party in Edmonton, and is running neck-and-neck with the PCs in Calgary.
ROI president Bruce Cameron said the race is tightening now that Liberal supporters appear to have moved to support the PCs in Calgary.
"It seems Albertans are increasingly lining up on one of two sides in this election: the Wildrose Party or the PC party," he said.
With the election on April 23, the poll shows among decided voters that:
The Wildrose Party leads with 43 per cent followed by the PCs at 36 per cent.
The Liberals at 11 per cent.
NDP at nine per cent.
Alberta Party at one per cent.
Cameron said a Wildrose majority government is possible, given its level of support. The real battleground, the poll suggests, will likely be in the province's two big cities.
In Calgary, the Tories have a slim four-point lead over Wildrose at 45 per cent support to 41 per cent. In Edmonton, it's the Wildrose Party with a slight lead of 37 per cent to 31 per cent.
Wildrose has strong lead in rural Alberta
The Wildrose Party has a commanding 21-point lead over the PCs outside of the two major cities, at 52 per cent to 31 per cent.
But the poll found 24 per cent of Albertans are undecided about who to vote for, which reflects a higher than normal level of voter uncertainty this close to an election.
"Strategic voting, in which Liberal and ND supporters abandon their traditional loyalties to vote PC to stop the Wildrose, may have already begun in Calgary, making it a virtual tie," he said.
"But in Edmonton, Liberal and New Democrat support has held firm thus far, preventing a PC comeback and enabling the Wildrose to take the lead in the capital.
"These types of unprecedented shifts are very difficult to predict and even more difficult to control, so we are likely to see a hotly contested finish to the 2012 Alberta election."
Results of the poll are based on a random poll of 800 Albertans. It was conducted April 13 and 14, and is accurate to within plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
cbcnews, Mon Apr 16 2012
Processing oilsands output in Alberta will create jobs, ND leader argues
New Democrat Leader Brian Mason would move forward with four upgraders planned for the Industrial Heartland area northeast of Edmonton, saying on Saturday that keeping bitumen in Alberta creates more jobs and stronger communities.
"We need to not just be the exporter of unprocessed raw materials for the rest of the world to create employment, but to create employment right here in our province," Mason said.
This follows Mason's earlier campaign announcement to increase royalties from bitumen production by 25 per cent, a raise the NDP said would bring in $1.4 billion annually and could be used to improve public services.
"It would be a 25 per cent increase in royalties on bitumen as opposed to refined or upgraded synthetic crude oil. That would have the impact of creating the investment here in our province, instead of in other parts of the world, and I think that's what Albertans expect and demand," Mason said on Saturday.
The NDP announcement comes after organizations, including the Alberta Federation of Labour and Alberta's Industrial Heartland Association, called on party leaders to address plans for the province's petrochemical sector.
AFL President Gil McGowan said the question of whether bitumen should be upgraded in the province or exported in its raw form is one of the most important economic issues facing Alberta today.
"More upgrading makes sense because it keeps jobs, profits and tax revenue here in Alberta, instead of sending all of those things to places like the U.S. or China," McGowan said.
He was pleased with Mason's plans to move forward with the upgraders, if the NDP are elected, and noted he has been "profoundly disappointed" that other party leaders have not addressed the question of upgrading. The Alberta Liberals, Tories and Wildrose parties have all said they will not increase oil and gas royalties if they are elected.
Mason targeted both the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties in his announcement, noting the Conservatives are allowing an increasing amount of bitumen to be shipped out of the province, while the Wildrose is "bankrolled by oil companies hoping to keep royalties low and profit margins at record highs."
"The Conservative government has allowed bitumen to be exported from this province without being upgraded here, despite the promise made in the last election by former Premier Ed Stelmach, who likened the export of unprocessed bitumen from the province to scraping off the topsoil from your farm and selling it," Mason said.
By moving forward with the four proposed upgraders, which have been stalled since 2008, Mason said 4,000 permanent operations jobs and 12,000 jobs in service and related industries would be created.
Calgary Herald, Sat Apr 14 2012
Byline: Cailynn Klingbeil