Tories, Wildrose lead way on record election spending spree
Political war chests are brimming with millions of dollars and Alberta parties are poised to smash campaign spending records during the 2012 election, observers say.
The incumbent Conservatives and the well-funded Wildrose challengers are in the midst of an advertising arms race, flooding provincial airwaves with political messages and filling Alberta roadsides with campaign signs.
"If parties have money, they'll spend it. The fact that the Wildrose can sort of match the Conservatives, I'm sure it will be much higher spending," University of Calgary political scientist Doreen Barrie said.
"They can sort of saturate the airwaves with messages, and billboards, and now they have all these other devices like robocalling and so on. They'll spend a lot of money, but you have to wonder how much money is wasted. I don't think they know what gives them bang for their buck."
Alberta is one of only two jurisdictions that doesn't cap election spending, and the amount of money shelled out by major parties has climbed steadily over the past three decades, from $1.3 million in 1979 to $3.9 million in 2001, Elections Alberta records show. In 2004, party spending dropped slightly to $3 million.
In 2008, the top four political parties spent a combined $4.8 million, nearly a million more than any election before.
Heading into the spring election, the Wildrose had raised more than any opposition party in Alberta history, pulling in $2.8 million in 2011 alone. The Conservative party war chest stood at $2.9 million in 2010, the last year for which figures are available.
Conservative party executive director Kelley Charlebois declined to say where the Tory war chest stood at the start of the campaign, and wouldn't say whether the governing party is prepared to match the $3 million it spent in 2008. "Asking questions around that is kind of like asking us to tip our hat around our election strategy," Charlebois said.
Wildrose strategist Vitor Marciano also refused to say how much his party had in its war chest, but he confirmed the party expected to spend "considerably more" than the $389,000 it spent in 2008.
"Wildrose will spend more than any opposition party ever has before, but I still expect that we will be massively outspent by the PCs," Marciano said. "This is going to be the most competitive election in a generation, so I expect the Tories to empty out their war chest." The most an opposition party has spent in Alberta is $1.2 million, a high reached by the Liberals in 2001 and the NDP in 1989.
Liberal party executive director Corey Hogan said his party has "a three-digit war chest" for the 2012 election and expects to spend close to the $650,000 spent in 2008.
Brian Stokes of the NDP said his party will spend more than the $816,000 it spent in the last election, and possibly as much as $1 million.
Studies show political challengers get a higher political return on election spending than do most incumbents.
In a 2007 study of Canadian federal campaign spending back to 1979, Cornell University professor Thomas Evans discovered that politicians with the majority party can spend a maximum of $1.21 per capita before the return on investment hits zero. After that, spending more money doesn't win more votes.
But political challengers can spend between as much as $1.86 per capita before the return on investment hits zero.
"At low levels, spending is more effective for incumbents, but the diminishing returns kick in extremely quickly," Evans said. "They can use their first bit of spending to tell you what they've done in the last four years - and further spending doesn't do any good."
"With the challenger, they spend their first dollars introducing themselves and who they are, and what they've done, and what they're going to do, so that the first dollar isn't as effective but the diminishing returns are much smaller.
"So they can go a lot further and be effective with their spending."
Theoretically, that means a Wildrose candidate could win more votes by outspending a Tory, but a Tory who outspends a Wildrose candidate wouldn't see the same boost at the polls.
Practically speaking, both parties can spend much more this round than in previous elections before they hit the point of zero return on investment.
In 2008, the Tories spent nearly $0.86 per capita on the election, while the Wildrose spent $0.11 per capita. The NDP and Liberals spent $0.23 and $0.19 per capita, respectively.
A separate 2007 study found incumbents spend more than challengers, and that winners spend more than losers, but that money isn't the only thing that matters.
"It does give the governing party a leg up, but there is still a race going on," said University of British Columbia economist Kevin Milligan, who co-authored the paper with Marie Rekkas of Simon Fraser University.
"Money is not the sole determinant. You can potentially, in the right circumstances, buy yourself a few percentage points. But turning around a whole election is not going to happen."
Milligan and Rekkas also found higher spending limits lead to fewer candidates running, lower voter turnout and races that are not as close.
"They are able to spend more, and that tends to lower the number of other candidates and lead to a bigger margin of victory for them," Milligan said.
"We didn't actually see that there was any change in their probability of winning. What happened more is that they ran up the score."
Milligan said voter turnout goes down in high-spending elections because people don't think their votes will matter.
"People tend to turn out when they think the election is going to be close," Milligan said.
"When you have the incumbent spending a whole bunch of money putting signs all over each riding, people think, well, all I see is blue signs all over the place, I'm not going to bother to vote, because it looks like blue is going to win anyway."
Alberta's 2008 election had the lowest voter turnout in the province's history, with 41 per cent of eligible voters casting ballots.
Edmonton Journal, Mon Apr 2 2012
Byline: Karen Kleiss
EDMONTON — NDP Leader Brian Mason expressed confidence Saturday his party's focus on issues such as health care, education and environment rather than personal attacks is a winning strategy.
"We're staying away from personalities and that seems to be resonating, that's what people are looking for," Mason said as he campaigned at the Old Strathcona Farmers' Market with Edmonton-Strathcona NDP incumbent MLA Rachel Notley for the April 23 provincial election.
"If you personalize it and make it about personal attacks on people's character, their integrity, their commitment to the province, I think it suppresses the vote."
But while Mason was pleased with the reaction other party leaders had to his call on Friday for a return to civility, visitors to the market were less certain the personal attacks will stop.
"It's been too much nitpicking at each other," said 86-year-old Doris Balash of the campaign so far. Balash was at the market with her daughter, Linda, and granddaughter, Leslie.
"I'm tired of listening to them nag about each other rather than give us what they're going to be working on," said 55-yearold Linda Lukasewich.
While Balash is impressed so far with Redford's campaign, Lukasewich said she's still waiting to decide who gets her vote. "I had decided on somebody, but now every time the leaders say something stupid, I think I should just wait," she said.
Mason's letter highlighted the need for political parties to pay attention to ideas, instead of personal attacks and detailed how the heightened negativity of this spring's election campaign risks creating voters who will stay home on April 23.
Notley, who was elected to the Edmonton-Strathcona riding in 2008, is a familiar face at the farmers' market. She said she was excited to take a break from door knocking and join Mason at the market on Saturday, as "he's been a political fixture of standing up for the little guy in Edmonton for 20 years."
While the NDP are joined on the centre-left with the Liberals, Alberta Party and Ever-Green Party, Notley is not worried about vote-splitting in her riding and instead predicts it may benefit the NDP.
"In this riding in particular, there is no Alberta Party candidate and the Liberal party candidate was appointed about a week ago," Notley said. "I think that throughout the city the emergence of the Wildrose opens up the opportunity for a vote split on the right."
Also out at Saturday's market was PC Edmonton-Strathcona candidate Emerson Mayers. "Our campaign is moving, things are happening and we'll get things moving much quicker for the second week," he said.
Chad Stewart of Chocolicious, where Mason described the milk chocolate-covered licorice he sampled as "addictive," said he'll continue to watch the campaign before deciding who gets his vote. "I think it will be an interesting battle in the next little bit," he said. "We'll have to wait and see how things go."
Edmonton Journal, Mon Apr 2 2012
Byline: Cailynn Klingbeil
EDMONTON - Are Albertans ready to embrace the idea of tax increases?
New polling suggests they might be, as long as the money is used for essential services and infrastructure.
"It's definitely surprising in this province that there appears to be a willingness to pay higher taxes from more than half of Albertans," said Ian Large of Leger Marketing, which conducted the poll for the Edmonton Journal and the Calgary Herald.
"This isn't an invitation to raise taxes; it's more of a tolerance for a tax increase."
The poll, conducted March 22-25, asked participants if they would be amenable to paying higher taxes if they were guaranteed the money would go to government programs and improvements to schools, highways and hospitals.
A full 56 per cent of respondents answered yes, while 42 per cent said no. Support was highest in Edmonton with 59-per-cent support for the idea, followed by Calgarians (56) and people living outside the two cities (53).
While not an overwhelming endorsement, the result is nonetheless unexpected in a province where any mention of tax hikes has been considered a non-starter, Large said.
"The critical component here is that it's for services and improvements that affect people's lives," he said. "That's where people want to see their tax dollars spent, and I think there is a recognition there is a bit of infrastructure deficit in the province and people believe there might be a need to raise taxes for that."
Among decided voters, 40 per cent of Wildrose supporters said yes to the tax question. Support was higher among respondents supporting the Progressive Conservatives (59), the Liberals (82), the NDP (83) and undecided voters (53).
Alberta has the lowest tax regime in the country, including low corporate rates, a flat, 10-per-cent income tax rate and no provincial sales tax.
Some opposition parties, including the Liberals and NDP, have pushed for a more progressive structure that would charge a higher rate to large corporations and high-earning Albertans.
The Wildrose has promised no tax hikes. The PCs have also vowed no increases for three years, though Alison Redford's government has said it wants to have a "conversation" with Albertans about the province's financial structure.
Large noted the poll question did not mention a specific type of tax increase, whether it be income tax, a sales tax or corporate taxes.
The poll also found Albertans are generally not in favour of cuts to services and programs to balance the budget.
About 39-per-cent of respondents said they would cut to get the province out of deficit, while 54 per cent said no.
Support for cuts was strongest from respondents outside the cities (44), followed by Calgarians (41) and Edmontonians (31).
In a somewhat unexpected result, just 49 per cent of decided Wildrose voters said they would trim program costs. That was ahead of backers for the PCs (42), Liberals (30), NDP (19) and undecided voters (35).
The telephone survey of 1,215 Albertans has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The margin increases when results are broken down by region or demographic.
Edmonton Journal, Fri Mar 30 2012
Byline: Keith Gerein
EDMONTON - Health care and education are among Albertans' top concerns heading into the provincial election, while government trust and accountability is another hot topic, particularly for Wildrose party supporters, a new poll indicates.
However, pollster Ian Large of Leger Marketing noted there seems to be no single dominant issue that is commanding voters' attention so far in the race, meaning political parties must score points with multi-pronged platforms.
"Things are looking up, the economy is doing well, people are working, people are satisfied with their personal life, and so the concerns they have are much more general than they would be if say, unemployment was the issue," he said. "It indicates that any party trying to run on a single issue, that's not going to speak to most Albertans. There are a bunch of different things at play here."
The poll, conducted by Leger for the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald, asked respondents to name the most important issue facing the province from a list of 12 subjects.
Not surprisingly, health care was the most popular answer, chosen by more than one-quarter of the survey's participants.
However, trust and accountability came in second with 15 per cent, well ahead of taxes, deficit spending, crime, the environment, electricity rates, and other issues that are a central part of some parties' campaign platforms.
The third most popular issue was education at 10 per cent, followed by the economy (nine), cost of living (seven), and energy development (seven). Everything else was five per cent or less.
University of Lethbridge political scientist Peter McCormick said the focus on accountability was likely driven by a number of recent controversies that have dogged Alison Redford's PC government, including an ethics investigation into a fundraiser held by Asia envoy Gary Mar, a "bullying" letter sent by a Tory MLA to a school board and revelations about a committee that continued to be paid even though it hadn't met for 40 months.
He noted that when survey respondents were asked a slightly different question — what issues would most affect their own vote — trust and accountability slipped to third and education moved up to second.
That's because while health and education play big for voters across the political spectrum, trust and accountability seem to be vital only toWildrose supporters. According to the poll data, 32 per cent of decided Wildrose voters felt it was an issue that affects their choice, compared with much lower concern among those backing the PCs (13), Liberals (16), NDP (21), and undecided voters (13).
"And it's mostly because you are Wildrose that you are concerned about this, rather than because you are concerned about this you are drawn to Wildrose," McCormick said.
"It's on the agenda because the Wildrose has put it on the agenda," said Large. "It's not surprising voters are aware of it, but whether it's important to them remains to be seen."
As for other issues, the environment ranked as the third most important subject for Liberal voters and fourth most important for NDP backers, but was near the bottom for Wildrose voters.
Deficit budgeting was also a concern for the Wildrose, Liberals felt more strongly about the cost of living and PC voters showed high interest in energy development.
Taxes and electricity rates were not vital factors for anyone, even though opposition parties have made those issues key planks in their platforms.
"There's not a bubbling revolution waiting to happen on those things," McCormick said. "Health care, education, and government trust and accountability — that's the closest you can get to finding a combination of issues that will get people going."
The March 22-25 telephone survey of 1,215 Albertans has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The margin increases when results are broken down by region or demographic.
Edmonton Journal, Thurs Mar 29 2012
Byline: Keith Gerein
Albertans overwhelmingly want a public inquiry into doctor intimidation - a probe the governing Tories have refused to call - but a slim majority think PC Leader Alison Redford has kept her word on the issue, according to a new poll.
A Leger Marketing telephone survey of 1,215 Albertans, conducted March 22-25 for the Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal, also found more than half are satisfied with the public health-care system.
Yet, nearly six in 10 Albertans want the option to buy their own coverage from private medical providers.
The survey probed Albertans' attitudes toward health care, a $16-billion provincial system that continues to be the top issue for voters as they head to the polls on April 23.
On the private care question, having the option to pay was more popular among those living in Calgary, or outside the province's two major cities, compared to Edmonton - where just half of voters said people should be able to pay for their own health-care services from private medical providers.
Wildrose party supporters are the most likely to favour private health-care options, followed by PCs. Among those who say they will vote for the Liberals and the NDP, there is significantly less support.
Ian Large, Alberta vice-president for Leger Marketing, said he was surprised by the large number of Albertans who answered in the affirmative. But he noted "we didn't ask 'do you want to pay for private health care,' but 'do you think we should have the freedom to pay for it.'"
John Church, a University of Alberta political scientist who studies health policy, said as the years pass and governments can't satisfy the public over wait lists and access to service, demand will increase for private alternatives.
The private provision of services can be more effective in some instances, Church added. But overall, his research has found a strong public system works best where no one has to produce a credit card to see a doctor.
"That alone is worth any of the other hassles we have to deal with."
Overall, Leger found 57 per cent of Albertans are satisfied with the health-care system - and satisfaction is consistent across the province.
The poll also asked two questions about the public health-care inquiry called by the Redford government last month.
On the heels of a scathing Health Quality Council of Alberta report in February, the Tory government announced a judge-led inquiry will look into "improper preferential access" to publicly funded medical services.
The council's probe found widespread instances of physicians experiencing "intimidation and muzzling" after advocating for patients, but it did not assign blame or identify specifically who did the intimidating.
Concerns about physician intimidation will not be specifically looked at by the panel, unless it is related to queue-jumping. The government is instead setting up two new health task forces, exploring governance issues and the role of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta.
That's not good enough for most Albertans.
According to the Leger poll, 71 per cent of Albertans said the government should hold an inquiry into the intimidation of doctors that was found in the council's report.
At the same time, exactly half of respondents said they believe Redford lived up to her promise to hold an inquiry - given during last year's PC party leadership race - by calling a probe into health care queue-jumping last month. Eighteen per cent say they don't know, while almost onethird say Redford did not live up to her word.
"She probably needs to be concerned about that," Large said. "Enough Albertans don't think we've heard the end of the discussion."
Earlier this month, the Alberta Medical Association took out full-page ads in Alberta newspapers, urging the government to call a full inquiry.
The ads have received hundreds of responses and the issue has gained traction, said AMA president Dr. Linda Slocombe.
"I think we have the public awareness around the issue," Slocombe said.
The Leger poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, although regional margins are higher.
Calgary Herald, Thurs Mar 29 2012
Byline: Kelly Cryderman, with files from Jamie Komarnicki
EDMONTON - NDP Leader Brian Mason said Wednesday his party would regulate power rates if they win the provincial election.
Seated at the dining room table at a retired couple's house on the south side of Edmonton, Mason said the NDP's plan to reform the province's electricity system would provide more reliable and affordable electricity.
"I promise you that relief is in sight," Mason said as the election campaign rolled into its third day. "With regulation, power companies could not unilaterally raise their rates because they want to make more money. They would need to justify increases. Unless you have a regulated power market, rates are open to manipulation."
As part of its energy plan, Mason also said the NDP would give Alberta's Utilities Commission a mandate to protect consumers; remove cabinet power to approve utility projects and open them up for consideration at public meetings; require power corporations to pay for transmission lines and make infrastructure projects subject to regulatory approval; and would encourage wind and solar generation to cut the need for expensive power lines.
Conservative Leader Alison Redford has promised the Tories would review the electricity system after the election. Alberta is the only province with a fully deregulated energy system, which Mason said hurts consumers.
Seated at a table with Edmonton-Goldbar candidate Marlin Schmidt and Angus and Carolee Perry, Mason said unpredictable electricity rates make it hard for people to budget.
"We want to make sure that life is affordable," Mason said. "In a province with so much prosperity, a lot of people are left behind."
A retired rural school principal, Angus Perry complained that in recent months the amount that he has paid per hour of usage has fluctuated wildly, and that the percentage of savings he apportions for electricity has more than doubled in the 10 years since the province endorsed deregulation.
"Ten years ago we were putting money away for our grandchildren's post-secondary education," 74-year-old Perry said, photos of his beaming brood of seven grandkids a few feet away. "Now we can't put funds aside because the cost of electricity takes such a big bite out of our budget.
"We are paying more, even though we have done everything we can do to reduce consumption. To me, it is an essential service and its cost is totally out of control and nobody is answerable."
Mason, who met with voters later Wednesday at a bake shop on the northwest side, acknowledged that the New Democrats have a smaller war chest than the Conservatives and Wildrose, who are running neck and neck in a new poll.
"It is quite clear they have a lot of money in the bank and a lot more to spend than we do,'' Mason said. "Our approach is a more patient, door-knocking approach that we think will pay dividends in the long run."
The cost of electricity is one of the issues voters are raising when the NDP comes knocking.
"I think we are putting on enough pressure that the Progressive Conservatives are nervous about the issue," Mason told the Perrys. "I am confident that if we do well enough in the election, we will get things done."
Edmonton Journal, Thurs Mar 29 2012
Byline: Marty Klinkenberg
NDP Leader Brian Mason rolled out his party's health plan to open 1,500 new long-term-care beds, spend $100 million more on home care and cover basic dental costs for children under 18.
The New Democrats would also cap seniors' drug costs at $25 in total, instead of $25 for each prescribed drug needed. They would maintain the cap on seniors' living costs and hire "hundreds" of doctors over the next four years.
Mason said these aren't "extraordinary promises," but ways to bring down waits for emergency care and strengthen medicare.
"Come election time, every party says they are the champions of Alberta health care, but Alberta's New Democrats are always there, election time or not," Mason said, calling the NDP health platform the party's top priority.
"Medicare is suffering in Alberta because of years of mismanagement and attempts at privatization."
Mason said the PCs rolled out their plans for the Third Way after the 2004 provincial election. After the 2008 election, the government appointed Ron Liepert the bad-cop health minister who set up Alberta Health Services after firing CEOs of the former provincial health regions.
"I think this is likely to happen again," Mason said. "I think people are learning a lesson: You can't trust the Progressive Conservative Party on health care because they won't tell you the truth during the election."
Premier Alison Redford continues to flirt with privatization by saying she'll get rid of the cap on the maximum amount seniors can pay for living expenses, said Mason.
"Alison Redford's answer is American-style health care," he said. "We want to improve and expand public health care."
How much the NDP health plan would cost won't be released until later this week.
"In our view, medicare is sustainable through commitment and innovation," Mason said. "The government doesn't spend its money wisely in the health-care system."
Edmonton Journal, Wed Mar 28 2012
Byline: Jodie Sinnema
Killing $2B GreenTrip fund could drive away urban votes
There's plenty to like about Danielle Smith and the Wildrose party. Smith is smart, tough, charismatic. She will stand up for Alberta's oilsands and provincial interests. She is also strong when it comes to issues of personal freedom.
All that said, the Wildrose position on mass transit is strangely out of touch with city voters, as well as unfair to them. If it were implemented, it would be a major blow to Calgary and Edmonton.
Smith evidently wants to take us back to the uninspired Klein era, when rapid transit development stalled. The attitude of the Klein gang was that mass transit was for elitist cities with fancy pants aspirations, that no one wanted mass transit in Alberta, at least no one who counted. The vision of the day was to roll down the open highway in a big truck or SUV with not a traffic light to slow you down from Leth-bridge to High Level.
But this hugely expensive approach hit an epic pothole. You can't spend enough billions in public funds to build enough overpasses, ring roads and arteries to rid a city or a region of its congestion. And as the traffic jams got ugly in the down-town Calgary commute in the 2000s, the hunger for mass transit grew, so much so that it represented a rare political triumph for the Stelmach government to bring in the $2-bil-lion GreenTrip plan.
GreenTrip is now building transit lines in Calgary and Edmonton, with $497 mil-lion going into the new NAIT LRT line.
Premier Alison Redford has gone on the record repeatedly to voice her support for Green-Trip funding. Indeed, in her commitment to mass transit, Redford comes across as strong and as fierce as Smith does on any of her own staunch policy stances.
But Smith on transit? Way too old school.
As part of its revamping of provincial funding of Alberta's cities and towns, the Wildrose would axe the Green-Trip program.
The overall Wildrose plan is to get rid of the numerous ways the province now funds municipalities and replace it with a single plan, the Community Infrastructure Transfer. This program would distribute 10 per cent of all provincial tax revenues and 10 per cent of all budget surpluses to the municipalities.
This scheme looks sensible enough, but is Wildrose really going to ask rural areas to pay for all their roads and highways out of this transfer? More likely, the province will continue to pay for and maintain all those necessary rural transportation links, as is only right.
But, as is only right, the province should also keep paying for necessary transportation links in the cities, such as LRT. If it pays for one type of transportation infrastructure, but chops the other, that's not acceptable.
"It would be a monstrous inequity between urban and rural," says Edmonton Coun. Don Iveson, head of the Capital Region Board's transportation committee.
"The province would no doubt continue to build highways in rural areas, but the LRT is the equivalent of a highway to Edmontonians and Calgarians as far as how many are able to get to work and get to school and get to markets on it."
Smith does talk about funding some regional transit: commuter rail lines in from the outer communities, such as Okotoks near Calgary, and Leduc near Edmonton. Not a bad idea, but this notion was looked at and rejected by the Capital Region Board when it made its new plan for the region's transportation needs for the next 30 years.
A regional commuter line helps you get in and out of the city in one or two directions but not around the city.
"For bang-for-buck and maximum benefit, the thinking was that expanding LRT and linking it with express buses from the region was of the greatest mutual benefit," Iveson says.
The GreenTrip program isn't just popular with urban elitists. It's popular with folks in the towns and counties.
The vote for the LRT-region-al plan was unanimous, 24 out of 24 members, with full backing from the reps from Devon, Beaumont, Bon Ac-cord, Bruderheim, Fort Saskatchewan, Lamont, Gibbons, Legal, Leduc, Parkland, Strathcona, Sturgeon, Spruce Grove, Thorsby, Wabamun and Warburg.
Perhaps the Wildrose has calculated that it can win Alberta by isolating the Edmonton region and taking Calgary and rural Alberta, the old Klein coalition.
But I can't see how taking an axe to C-Train funding is going be a winner in Calgary. Voters there recently elected an avid pro-transit mayor in Naheed Nenshi.
The platforms are crafted. The promises planned. Now it is up to voters to decide which party's campaign best fits with their vision of Alberta. To help, the Journal will track the five major party's promises throughout the 2012 campaign. View the plat-form tracker online at edmonton-journal.com/election.
Here's a look at where party leaders plan to campaign on Wednesday. Not all leaders' itineraries were available.
Liberal Leader Raj Sherman - 10 a.m. Red Deer, campaign headquarters for Red Deer North candidate Michael Dawe, 5417 Gaetz Ave., medical training announcement
- 1: 30 p.m. Edmonton, West End Seniors Activity Centre, 9629 176th St. NW, health forum panel, followed by 2: 30 p.m. announcement re: accessible seniors' services
PC Leader Alison Redford
- 9: 50 a.m. Suncor tour, Fort McMurray.
- 1: 05 p.m. MacDonald Island Library, 151 MacDonald Dr.
- 2 p.m. Holy Trinity High School, 230 Powder Dr.
- 3: 05 Tim Hortons, 9701 Hardin St.
- 5: 30 p.m. United Way, Fireside Room, MacDonald Island Park, 151 MacDonald Dr.
- 6: 30 p.m. Opening ceremonies for Father Mercredi Catholic High School Science and Technology Centre, 455 Silin Forest Rd.
- 7: 15 p.m.: Don Scott campaign office, 160 MacLennan Cres.
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith
- 9: 15 a.m. Edmonton, 10800-97th Ave. NW, remarks on campaign platform
- 11: 20 a.m. Redwater, Noreen and Friends Diner, 4919 49th St., serving customers
- 2 p.m. St. Paul, St Paul's Curling Club, 4803 52nd St., curling with seniors
- 5: 35 p.m. Fort Saskatchewan, 555018 RR 200, Speaking to sup-porters at party event
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Edmonton Journal, Wed Mar 28 2012
CALGARY — Liberal Leader Raj Sherman kicked off his party's campaign in Calgary on Tuesday with charges that the intimidation of health-care workers extends far beyond doctors.
Sherman sat side-by-side in a news conference with nurse Terri Reuser, who said she paid a price for raising concerns about the deterioration of care and the mistreatment of elderly patients with dementia in a long-term care facility in Black Diamond.
The problems began in 2006, when the facility was under the Calgary Health Region and became worse after the formation of Alberta Health Services in 2008, Reuser said.
Problems such as bedsores and infections became more prevalent, she said.
Reuser alleges that a staff member had twisted the arm of an elderly patient behind her back to make her go to bed. The woman fell and required stitches to her head.
Another patient was slapped by a staff member, she said.
Reuser said she raised concerns about the problems to the facility administration and was "interrogated, bullied, just made to feel incompetent."
"I was shunned."
She wrote a letter to AHS and was told an investigation would be launched, but Reuser said she has never been told what resulted.
Sherman said the situation is part of a much greater problem with the system under the PC government, pointing to a Herald story last week that showed there have been 1,000 confirmed cases of elderly and disabled Albertans being abused in provincially funded facilities over the past seven years
He said Reuser's story is a piece with last month's Health Quality Council of Alberta report that found half the doctors who responded to a survey felt they had been stopped from advocating for their patients. About 20 per cent said they'd experienced "active harmful obstruction."
"It's beyond the bullying of doctors," said Sherman, an emergency room physician. "We have more than 30,000 nurses in this province and we as doctors can't do our job without all the nurses and the health staff. These are the angels of the health system who are right beside us. . . . Nurses are bullied as well as are all front line staff. And this is unacceptable in this province."
The Liberals are calling for the doubling of funding for home care and an additional $180 million for the construction of new, long-term care facilities.
Progressive Conservative Leader Alison Redford said the government hasn't denied the allegations of intimidation in the health system and is taking steps to deal with the issue.
A situation affecting seniors such as the one described by Reuser is a "tragedy," Redford said.
"We have to make sure that there are as few of those as possible," she said. "Unfortunately sometimes in the health are system there are circumstances that arise that really do lead to really unfortunate situations. What we have to do is make the system better. . . . We have to make sure that they're reported and we have to make sure we don't let them happen again. That's actually solving the problems."
In 2010, the governing Tories proclaimed the Protection of Persons in Care legislation to make it against the law not to report abuses.
Door-knocking later with former party leader David Swann in the trendy Hillhurst neighbourhood of his Calgary-Mountain View riding, Sherman is hoping the Liberals can add to the party's four seats in the city with a split between the front-running conservative parties.
Early polls have shown the long-governing Tories and the Wildrose party in a dead heat.
"Our chances are very good. There is a perfect 50-50 split on the right wing and there are a lot of progressive Calgarians. . . . I believe we can make big inroads," he said.
Calgary Herald, Wed Mar 28 2012
Byline: James Wood
Campaigning in the same constituency yesterday, it is interesting to wonder what Premier Alison Redford and Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith would have said to each other if their paths had intersected. Close polls, push polls, and sharp criticisms have defined the first two days of Alberta's 2012 election campaign.
Premier Redford was in Highwood campaigning with Progressive Conservative candidate John Barlow, who faces the daunting task of keeping the high-profile Ms. Smith out of the Assembly.
Campaigning in southern Alberta yesterday, Ms. Smith released her party's pledge to table balance budgets. Under the Wildrose platform, future government spending would be limited to population growth plus inflation. Despite Wildrose Party assurances that they would not launch into a round of drastic service cuts if they are elected, I cannot help believe that a government led by Ms. Smtih would do anything but.
Health care was the focus of the second day of the election campaign for the NDP and Liberals, as both parties leaders unveiled parts of their platforms.
NDP leader Brian Mason and Edmonton-Calder candidate David Eggen (photo via @johnalanashton).
In the north end constituency of Edmonton-Calder, NDP leader Brian Mason joined candidate and former MLA David Eggen to announce that his party would create 1,500 long-term care beds, cover dental costs for Albertans under the age of 18, and bring down the cost of prescription drugs through a new provincial pharmaceutical plan. Mr. Eggen was the MLA for this constituency from 2004 until 2008, and since then has served as the executive director of the Friends of Medicare.
On the day the election was called, Mr. Eggen's campaign team flexed their organization muscle by placing more than 1,100 lawn signs on private property across the constituency, painting Edmonton-Calder orange.
Raj Sherman campaigns in Calgary (photo via @alanacbaker).
In Calgary yesterday, Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman reaffirmed his party's commitment to increase funding to build and operate more long-term care beds and facilities. Joined by a medical doctor and a retired health care worker, Dr. Sherman continued to call on Premier Redford to fulfil her promise to hold a judicial inquiry into doctor intimidation.
Today, the Dr. Sherman will travel to Red Deer to make another health care related announcement at the campaign office of Red Deer-North candidate Michael Dawe and Red Deer-South candidate Jeff Chilibeck.
Focusing on health care is a smart strategy for the Liberals, who are seen as strong on this issue, yet have slipped in the polls over the past four years. It gives the party an opportunity to contrast itself with the PC's, whose poor management has created many of the staffing problems faced in the health care system, and the Wildrose Party, which would introduce a "hybrid" or "European" model of health care. It is suspected that the Wildrose model would include the introduction of private medical insurance.
Meanwhile, in Lethbridge, interesting contests are shaping up in both of that city's constituencies.
As first predicted on this blog on February 24, former Edmonton-Mill Woods Tory MLA Carl Benito is entering this election as an Independent candidate. Campaign-like signs began to appear on fences near major intersections in the constituency in late February. The controversy-prone Mr. Benito was first elected in 2008 and lost his party's nomination to Sohail Qadri. Mr. Benito will face Mr. Qadri, former Liberal MLA Weslyn Mather, NDP candidate Sandra Azocar, Wildroser Joanne Autio, and Alberta Party candidate Robert Leddy.
davealberta.ca, Wed Mar 28 2012