Saturday, July 18, 2009

If Labels Don't Matter, Why Doesn't Smith Call Herself a 'Conservative'?

An understanding of the proper role of government is no substitute for a society's way of life.

"Politics is not like an ocean voyage or a military campaign… something which leaves off as soon as reached. It is not a public chore to be gotten over with. It is a way of life." - Plutarch

I have noticed recently that a number of Danielle Smith's supporters have been pushing some new arguments. The argument is that her candidacy creates a fusion between those political philosophies of 'libertarianism' and 'social conservatism'. As if to further emphasize their point, they make the argument that the party's policies and principles will remain the same regardless of who is leader. Lastly, they have argued that labels like 'libertarian' and 'social conservative' are not nearly as important as the principles that lie behind these two political philosophies. Are they correct in making these arguments? I would say that they are partially correct, but that they are not entirely so. I have several points that I would like to make beginning with the last and weakest argument.

The argument that there is no real distinction between self-described 'libertarians' and 'social conservatives' beyond the labels is something that those from both camps would surely deny. The first question we ought to ask is, if these labels are meaningless than why does Danielle Smith insist that the first one be used to described her? If there is no real substantive difference wouldn't she be indifferent to being described using either label? Obviously there is a substantial difference that make the labels necessary. While 'libertarians' have an absolute belief in a very limited role for the state, 'social conservatives' have an absolute belief that the first and foremost role of the state is to protect human life. These two beliefs needn't always contradict, but sometimes they do. In a case of euthanasia, a libertarian might believe the state has no business to intervene in someone's personal choice whereas a social conservative might believe the state has the legal duty to intervene and save a human life.

The other argument that the policies and principles of the party will remain the same regardless of who is leader. Someone should have told members of the old federal PC party that they should have had nothing to fear with David Orchard becoming leader because their party's policies would have remained unchanged. Even if the Wildrose Alliance is a party that is more grassroots-driven that most, a genuine leader is not pushed any which way but ably leads a party in a certain direction. Therefore, the principles and policies that Danielle Smith calls her own will be extremely important in determining which direction the party is led. What proponents of this argument also forget is although some of these 'hot-button social issues' fall under federal jurisdiction, they are not entirely irrelevant to the Premiership. Who would deny that having the Premier of Alberta speak openly and frankly to Stephen Harper about these social issues would have no effect on how the Albertan-based Prime Minister?

The most potent argument that Smith supporters are making about her candidacy representing a fusion of libertarianism and social conservatism is also the most disconcerting. It is wrong for two reasons. The first is that conservatism is split into different ideologies when it is first and foremost a way of life. Yes conservatives have ideas and policies, but these must always reflect and safeguard a pre-existing way of life and not the other way around. The second is the assumption that there are other factors of electability that are more important than holding Alberta's mainstream conservative values. While factors such as personality, age, and talent should be considered, ultimately the most important factor in electability is a candidate's conviction to maintain our province's conservative values. The values of Albertans ought to be exemplified in the public and private lives of her political leaders. They must provide a moral example to young Albertans of the meaning of faith, family, and freedom.

I will conclude with a few others observations. Like Preston Manning, I myself believe that there is a larger label that both 'libertarians' and 'social conservatives' fall under and that is the label of 'conservative'. To press home my point I note that Randy Hillier did not run his campaign on the label of being 'a libertarian-social conservative candidate', but as a 'conservative leader for a conservative party'. While Danielle says she is modeling her campaign in many ways with that of Randy Hillier's campaign for the leadership of the Ontario PC Party, the fact that she has kept 'libertarian' label speaks volumes about her convictions as a candidate. Unfortunately, her supporters would do well to remember that politics is not just a political campaign, but an entire way of life that goes far beyond mere public image. Therefore, I believe that the candidate for the leadership of the Wildrose Alliance party with the most electability is also the candidate that lives the values of ordinary Albertans.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Smith Campaign Continues to Press Media Advantage, Shifts Focus from Royalty Rates

This week the campaigns finally squared off on the policy front even as Danielle continued to receive media attention. After spending the first part of her campaign speaking to the media about the issue of royalty rates, Danielle Smith's campaign has unveiled a new policy platform on democratic reform. It was only last Friday that Danielle was on the Charles Adler show explaining why the New Royalty Framework badly needs to be fixed. This past Tuesday her campaign sent out an e-mail in which she outlines her policies on democratic reform. Danielle's proposals include policies on free speech, fixed election dates, direct democracy, and senate elections. By and large her proposals are similar to those that have are made on Mark Dyrholm's web site. One notable difference is that Danielle doesn't go quite as far as Mark on the issue of free speech. While Danielle policy states that "the Commission’s power of political censorship should be repealed", Mark explicitly calls for "the elimination of Section 3 from the Alberta's Human Rights Act."

Following up on the key advantage she has in garnering media coverage, Smith also appeared on the Leslie Primeau Show on 630 CHED yesterday where she admitted that a strong perception of Calgary as the oil centre of Alberta exists. Although Primeau brought up her interview on the Charles Adler show last week, Smith chose to discuss other issues and didn't bring up the New Royalty Framework once. Meanwhile, the Dyrholm campaign appears to be aware but not bothered by all the media attention is Danielle is receiving. Yesterday, the Mark Dyrholm sent the following message out to his followers on twitter, "My focus has been talking to people, not the media and I think that is working in the nomination. One race at a time." On October 14th we will know for certain whether Danielle's advantage in media coverage will translate into a victory or not.

To see Danielle's policies on democratic reform, please visit:

To see Mark Dyrholm's policies on democratic reform, please visit:

Libertarians Supporting Socon Candidate Jeff Willerton?

If you scan down the July 2009 archives of the Western Standard's Shotgun Blog, you will find an interesting article by Matthew Johnston entitled From the Poorhouse to the Penthouse: The Fall and Rise of Jeff Irwin Willerton: Book Review. The piece explores the often difficult journey that is Jeff Willerton's life. The author ends his book review by mentioning Willerton's latest project which is to run for the leadership of the Wildrose Alliance. Johnston admits to having initially written Willerton off as a serious candidate, but explains how he has changed his mind from reading his autobiography. Mentioning that Willerton needs to raise $10,000 to enter the leadership race, Johnston even plugs his web site where people can learn about Willerton and make a donation.

What is especially interesting about this blog post is the comments section where Johnston and a number of prominent libertarians in Canada are express support for Jeff Willerton as a candidate for the Wildrose Alliance leadership. However, the last comment seems to suggest that at least some libertarians do not support Willerton for being "an unapologetic social conservative" as Johnston describes him. Their support for his entrance into the race is built on the premise that he could split the social conservative vote, putting Danielle Smith in a better position to beat Mark Dyrholm and win the leadership. Here are some excerpts from the comments responding to the article:

"Willerton's frankness, candor and honesty strike me as risky for someone who wants to pursue a political office and, because of that, admirable....I wish him luck."
Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2009-07-11 10:17:51 AM

"Best of luck with your campaign."
Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-07-12 11:03:32 AM

"And a Willerton candidacy is important for the injection of honesty, and because it can provide the so-called "socon" segment with real choice and a real debate."
Posted by: John Collison | 2009-07-12 3:54:14 PM

"John Collison: I've only met you a few times, but I'm sure you wouldn't get Willerton going to split the hard socon vote and get Danielle the victory:) It works for me"
Posted by: Dennis Young | 2009-07-12 6:27:27 PM

To read the article in it's entirety and read the full comments in response to the article, please visit:

Monday, July 13, 2009

'PC Stronghold of Edmonton' Puts Wildrose Alliance Leadership Hopefuls in the Hot Seat

Demonstrating her strong media connections again, last Friday Danielle Smith appeared as a guest on the radio show of her former colleague Charles Adler. After apparent complaints from her leadership rival's supporters, Mark Dyrholm also appeared as guest on the Charles Adler this past Monday. It was somewhat amusing to see how comments made by former MLA Mark Norris, a former Cabinet Minister in Ralph Klein's government, seemed to force both candidates to focus on Edmonton. This focus seemed to make both candidates hot under the collar, but their reactions were could not have been more different. Reacting to Norris' comments on 'the Calgary oil patch, Calgary-centric group', Smith made a sharp rebuke which seemed to suggest that an Edmontonian could not understand the plight of 'the guys in the Calgary office towers who are making those investment decisions '. During most of her interview, Smith zealously defended the interests of the Calgary oil patch. (I have recorded a partial transcript of Danielle's interview which can be read below and you can also listen to her exchange with Mark Norris online on the web site linked below.)

During the second interview on Monday, the Smith-Norris exchange was replayed by Charles Adler on his program for Mark Dyrholm to listen to and respond to. Since the exchange was a good length of time, the result was that there was only time for one person to call in on the program while Mark was a guest. Dyrholm's response to Mark's statements was that the former MLA was overly concerned with 'certain parts of Edmonton where Alberta does have a little bit more of a left leaning'. He elaborated later in the program when he emphatically stated that, 'We don't need a separation often between Edmonton and Calgary. I mean, I guess I said something when I took my shot at Mark Norris..I know there are some amazing conservatives up there that are supporting us and we need them to stand up and support their Reform roots.' And surprisingly, the interview suddenly ended with Dyrholm paying tribute to the many Reform-minded conservatives in Edmonton who may currently feel underrepresented in the party. (I have recorded a partial transcript of Mark's interview which can be read below and you can also listen to his response to Mark Norris on the web site link below.)

Partial transcript of Smith's interview on the Charles Adler show on Friday, July 10, 2009 at 2:00PM from 38:58 to 41:28 -

Mark Norris: " to hear comments like the Calgary oil patch, Calgary-centric group is saying that this isn't going to work is absolute nonsense."

Danielle Smith: "Well, Mark's from Edmonton so he's not spending much time with the guys in the Calgary office towers who are making those investment decisions."

Mark Norris: "Why would you say that?"

Danielle Smith: "Well, and he's just wrong. I mean the natural gas royalty framework is so onerous there absolutely has been a chilling effect on investment here [in Calgary]. We can even see this. I mean look at the drilling numbers. They went down down by half even before the New Royalty Framework was implemented when oil and gas prices were very high because of the uncertainty. We know they made a mistake because they've already had to make five major adjustments to the New Royalty Framework [since] when it was first implemented. And the people I'm taking to are saying it's still not enough. They're saying they're looking at Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Even look at the Frasier Institute Report, they did a major survey of investment climates for the petroleum sector and guess what province came out number one? The province that came out number one was yours, Charles. It was Manitoba. And guess which province came out last? It was Alberta. So I don't think what Mark's saying holds any water. There's a ton of changes that still need to be made to the New Royalty Framework. And frankly, this government doesn't have the will to admit it has made a mistake and to make those changes so we can get business investment coming back to this province.

Mark Norris: I don't even know where to start. I wasn't raised in an environment to say people are just wrong. I mean that's the problem with politics today. If that's where your guest is headed then absolutely no support will come. But the reality is that when Lougheed made the changes the exact same comments were made and if she does some research she'll find the exact same quotes from the oil patch. Dividing Edmonton and Calgary is the oldest trick in the book and it's pathetic to be quite honest. And the reality is that this has always been driven by price, always. And when I was in government we had a stumble in 2001 after 9/11 [and] we overcompensated and the bottom line was that once prices hit again you won't hear a peep from anybody in Calgary, or [?], or Fort McMurray, or Drayton Valley. This government is trying as hard as it can in my estimation to react to global changes and to think we're some kind of island unto ourselves is nonsense. And the reason Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Manitoba have risen is because they've all copied the model we've put in place ten years ago.

Partial transcript of Dyrholm's interview on the Charles Adler show on Friday, July 10, 2009 at 2:00PM from 51:34 to 52:05, and from 53:22 to 54:08 -

Mark Dyrholm: So actually Mark Norris is just a little too focused on certain parts of Edmonton where Alberta does have a little bit more of a left-leaning. And he is unaware of just how livid real small-c conservatives are in this province because they remember our Reform history. We're fiscal, we're social conservatives and we want those things that were set up in Reform and we want them going on in Alberta so that we can be the place we used to be. And we want the Alberta Advantage back.

In response to Charles Adler's question if the Wildrose Alliance can form the official opposition in the next provincial election:

Mark Dyrholm: I think we can absolutely do it next time and it's because of the coalition we've put together. I bring a great campaign team. I've been involved in over fifteen electoral campaigns [and] we need that strong team. We also need my business organization having been vice-president of Calgary's biggest small business group the Progressive Group for Independent Business and we need that coalition between Reformers. We don't need a separation [that is] often between Edmonton and Calgary. I mean, I guess I said something when I took my shot at Mark Norris...I know there are some amazing conservatives up there [in Edmonton] that are supporting us and we need them to stand up and support their Reform roots.

To listen to the broadcast of the above transcript of Danielle on the Charles Adler show, listen to Friday, July 10, 2009 at 2:00PM from 38:58 to 41:28

To listen to the broadcast of the above transcript of Mark on the Charles Adler show, listen to Monday, July 13, 2009 at 2:00PM from 51:34 to 52:05, and from 53:22 to 54:08

An Edmonton Member Expresses Displeasure with the Party to the Campaigns

Date: Sat, 11 Jul 2009 07:07:34 -0700
Subject: Leadership Race


My name is Matt and I am a current member of the Wildrose Alliance. I am becoming more and more frustrated with the opperations of the party and especially with the way the party presents themselves.

My father currently owns 3 oilfield construction companies, one based in Red Deer, the other in Saskatoon, and the third in the N.W.T. Working closly with his company I came to notice what changes the royalties review made to our business. (Remember this I will bring it up later). When I moved to Edmonton I joined the Edmonton-Strathcona EDA for the conservative party, and became involved in politics.

The main purpose of this email is to express my concerns with the current SERIOUS DOWNFALLS with the Wildrose Alliance. The first downfall is the EXCESSIVE over-use of the royalties reform policy. Most of the blue collar companies are not concerned with the oil royalties. From experience, when the new royalty rates were introduced, my fathers company experienced some drop in business, but shortly after contracts came in booking his entire production into 2013. I have talked to dozens of other blue collar oilfield companies, and they too are well booked into the future. One gentleman I recently met, told me his company has had more work after the royalty rates than they did before. So you see where the problem lies? The white collar oilfield workers, those who have never lifted a hammer are the ones complaining about the royalty rates. I assume that these white collar companies are donating money to the party, and that is why you bring it up so often. Yes, taxes=bad, royalty hikes=bad, I agree, Just stop bringing it up!

The Wildrose Alliance has become a political lobby group. Whenever the Wildrose is in the news, it is some bitching about oilfield royalties, yet there is a couple pages of well received policies that are never spoken about. Even in the leadership race this lobby group mentality became evident to me. If this party wants to make gains in Alberta, they have to promote the policies that voters care about, such as health care, education, property rights, ect. Once you get elected on this platform, then you can bring out your royalties policy. By continually talking about the royalties you are only set to lose support when over 90% of the province supports it or does not care.

The last point I wish to make today is about the universality of the party. At the moment the Wildrose is a Calgary oil Party. Sure there may be some northern directors making the party look universal, but we all know that is a lie. Growing up in Red Deer I developed a type of mentality that Red Deer was the Center of the world and I could care less about anything outside the city limits. And that Calgary-Centered mentality is exactly what the Wildrose Alliance is radiating. If the party wants to make any serious gains in Alberta, they have to push out into rural areas, talk to farmers and ranchers, and promote the policies to the regular people. Open up a northern office, with a staff dedicated to party opperations and fundraising. With the legislature being located in Edmonton, and all other provincial parties holding an office here, it only makes sense that the Wildrose should try to promote themselves in the political capitol.

This party needs some serious reform if we ever wish to get elected, and this bitching and complaining about oil royalties is only making us sound like a broken record. I would like to see a Wildrose Government in the future, but with the parties current priorities, I can not see us winning any seats.

Some words for thought.



Saturday, July 11, 2009

Leadership Race Highlights a Tory Schism in Alberta?

Last Thursday Kevin Libin wrote an article Wildrose party sets sights on Alberta conservatives that was published in the National Post. The author correctly points out that the party's leadership race has been attracting support from many federal Conservatives in the province. Even the Conservative Prime Minister's old mentor, Tom Flanagan, took out a Wildrose Alliance membership at the party's AGM last month. Unlike here in Edmonton, Premier Stelmach has never been very popular in Calgary even before the New Royalty Framework came into place. And the fact that it was supporters of Wildrose Alliance leadership candidates who clearly visible at the Stampede BBQ with the Prime Minister Harper, and not Stelmach's PC entourage, further emphasizes the Edmonton-area premier's unpopularity in Calgary.

The article cites a growing "Tory vs. Tory schism in the heartland of Canadian conservatism." However, there has always been a division between federal Conservatives who tend to be those who are more conservative and provincial Progressive Conservatives who tend to be much less so. The only reason this division has never been so visible until now is because there was no alternative provincial party that federal Conservatives could support. What's less known is the potential schisms between the Wildrose Leadership candidates themselves that the PC Party might try to exploit. There is already some evidence that Stelmach supporters may try to capitalize on his old rivalries by painting Danielle Smith as "the Jim Dinning of the Wildrose Alliance" and Mark Dyrholm as "the Ted Morton of the Wildrose Alliance".

I suggest reading Kevin Libin's article in its entirety. It's a great read:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Candidates Explain their Leadership Bids to the Calgary Herald

The Calgary Herald asked both leadership candidates the question, "Why do you want to be leader of the Wildrose Alliance?" The response give by Danielle Smith and Mark Dyrholm were both published in the Calgary Herald on June 11th and July 6th. The fact that Danielle's response was published so much sooner may be indicative of the fact that she has been a columnist for the Calgary Herald and no doubt has many friends and acquaintances that still work there. This whole leadership race so far has played like a long distance marathon with Danielle as the first one of the gates and Mark pacing himself a few strides behind. Besides the fact that they were published a full month apart, what's most interesting about the responses from each candidate below is what each candidate emphasizes. In her response, Danielle Smith places more emphasis on the failures of the Stelmach PC Party and cites the history of Alberta politics as being on the side of the new "centre-right" political party. In his response, Mark places more emphasis the successes he has had as a business owner and cites his own history of involvement in Alberta's 'legacy parties." I have linked both articles below so that readers can read and judge each response for themselves:

Why I want to be leader of the Wildrose Alliance, By Mark Dyrholm
For The Calgary Herald, July 6, 2009

Article's Closing Quote:

"Compare the candidates, go to their websites and you will find that I am the only candidate who lists my policies and team members. I believe in transparency and feel that you need to know who a candidate is, what they stand for and who their campaign team members are...If you believe in less government, lower taxes, political accountability, property rights and freedom of speech, I am the right choice."

Why I want to be leader of Wildrose Alliance, By Danielle Smith
For The Calgary Herald, June 11, 2009

Article's Closing Quote:

"Through lack of consultation or competence, the province is on the wrong track and doesn't seem willing to get on the right one...Those of us who want a centre-right government are left with no choice but to create our own alternative. Every single party that has ever governed this province has swept away the stale party and the stale ideas that preceded it. As a leadership candidate for the Wildrose Alliance, with your support, we can make that happen once again."

Monday, July 6, 2009

Smith Should Challenge the Strength of Dyrholm's Campaign Team

In the race for the leadership of the Wildrose Alliance Party, one of the areas that the two campaigns diverge sharply on is that of campaign volunteers. At the time of this blog posting , Mark Dyrholm has an no fewer than thirty-one volunteers listed on his campaign web site [ ] including the redoubtable Craig Chandler. The effect has been that many observers of the Wildrose Alliance leadership race have come to the conclusion that Dyrholm has a stronger campaign team and an advantage in grassroots support. It has been lack of grassroots support and not fundraising that has been a problem for the party's electoral chances.

Interestingly enough, Danielle Smith has opted not to list any members of her campaign team on her web site including her campaign manager. Presumably Danielle some prominent people helping her campaign like oil and gas industry insider Dave Yager, but she has decided not to list their names on her web site or those of any of her key volunteers. The result has been to reinforce the perception that her campaign team lacks the strength of Dyrholm's. Unless it was simply an oversight on her web site, it is curious that Smith would not challenge the strength of Dyrholm's campaign team by listing her own team and volunteers on her own web site.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Calgary Political Tradition Continues

On Canada Day both Wildrose Leadership candidates were seen in Calgary flipping pancakes.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Letter from Jeff Willerton to Attendants of the Wildrose Alliance AGM

I came across this from The Alberta Altruist blog at commenting on leadership hopeful Jeff Willerton. I was disappointed the blog mentioned two letters Willerton wrote to attendants at the AGM without divulging anything contained either of these letters. So I have taken the liberty of posting one of the letters in its entirety below.

"Jeff Willerton when googled has his website
, previous elections, and gay pride bashing. I have to admit he is not the conventional type to run. At the AGM I had received copies of his book as well as the two letters he left for the audience. I won't go into detail what was in them outside of a strong opinion of Danielle Smith and her beliefs. His website offers nothing to his running for leader and I could find no social networking at all."

2 June 2009

Ladies and gentlemen,

The AGM is over and if I was successful we have become the 'anti-Liberal, anti-government' alternative in Alberta. Or not, but either way I will seek the leadership of the party. A short history:

Fourteen years ago I quit a lucrative job in the insurance industry to work for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. (I'm confident you're familiar with the organization). You will not have heard of me because I was not their public spokesperson. I was the guy running around the province knowing on doors raising money to keep the organization afloat. I was also their top rep in the country.

I quit that in '99 to get more involved in partisan politics and raise money for the Socreds. (Don't hold that against me - it's where people like us went in those days). That was a disaster! Broke, I stumbled onto another sales opportunity in which I made considerable $ in a short period of time and published my first book.

You see, while working for the Taxpayers I was living in Barrhead and writing a weekly column for the local paper ('98 and '99). In 2000 I republished them in book format and have been updating, revising and republishing it ever since, selling them door to door, largely in the business and farming communities. I might have made more money doing just about anything else, but there's an upside to everything and this rather odd form of self-employment has given me a wealth of contacts in the province. You have been provided with a copy of what is now the seventh edition. I trust you'll enjoy it.

I bring all this to your attention to let you know that, like you, I have made many sacrifices along the way in the promotion of better government. A promising career in insurance was sacrificed to work directly for the CTF and help that organization influence government policy. I left the CTF in '99 to get more involved in partisan politics and work specifically to bring down what are and always have been the very liberal Tories in this province.

I ran for the Socreds in '97 and '01, finishing third and second with 800 and 1200 votes respectively. (The '97 results being the second highest in Calgary that year; the latter being the second highest vote count in the province and the only riding in which the party's vote count actually went up from the previous election). I finished third for the Alberta Party in '04, (1,000 votes) dead last running as an independent in Ralph's old riding in '07 (125) and second representing the Wildrose Alliance in '08, finishing with the third highest vote count in the province (2300) among WAP candidates.

If you've lost count that's five election losses - as it turns out the same number John Diefenbaker lost before winning one and becoming the prime minister of Canada. So I've been beat upside the head a few times, yes, but it builds character.

Why, though, have I done relatively well compared to other candidates running under the same banner? It's called door knocking and fund raising. I've done lots of both...and that brings me to the point of this letter.

The entry fee to the leadership race is $10,000.00 and yours truly is about as poor as a church mouse is sober. Why would you want to contribute to my candidacy?

Because I'm grass roots; a man of the people, literally clawing and scratching my way up from the bottom. Unlike my most notable opponent I'm not Ivy League or even university educated. I graduated from the school of hard knocks, and with your help I will be a colourful - and I think remarkably successful - leader of this organization. And the media will be in an absolute tither.

You see, in 2006 a friend and I protested the Calgary gay pride parade. He was tackled to the ground and punched in the head. I came to his defence. That's what was caught on film. They will claim I'm homophobic. They couldn't be more wrong.

People need to be free to live their lives the way they choose and be respected regardless of how they choose to define themselves, (I mean that sincerely) but that does not require me to support gay marriage which is probably the most destructive social development in Canadian history.

Gay marriage is not an election issue. Neither is abortion, but they both might well be issues at some point in a world of Citizen Initiated Referenda - and I haven't fought this political battle, this long, to elect a leader who defends what is now the status quo on these, the most important social issues in our nation's history.

Danielle Smith might not recall but I debated her in a hotel in Whistler, BC eleven years ago on the subject of abortion; she defending a woman's right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy; I arguing on behalf of the foetus. It doesn't matter who won the debate. She was wrong and still is, and it's her right to continue to be so.

I've learned from other conversations that she supports gay marriage, 'in some circumstances'. Sorry, but you either do or you don't and in my view gay marriage means no more or less than the erosion of the institution of marriage itself. (The first four chapters of my book deal with that issue). Danielle is intelligent, articulate and well connected in the business community, but so was Randy Thorsteinson, and for the reasons noted above I can not possibly support her candidacy.

The same friend and I 'attended' George W. Bush's Calgary visit. Actually we saw that there would be hundreds of anti-Bush protestors out that day, so we waded into the crowd with signs reading 'The world is safer because of George W. Bush' (it is, but that's a long story). The media looks for controversy and we gave it to them.

I tell you these things to let you know that I'm basically fearless. I'll take on hundreds of left-wing protestors AND a raging 300 lb homosexual (though I'm acquainted with and get along well with others in that community)... and Danielle Smith ... I just need your help to do it. A self-addressed envelope is enclosed for any contribution you can make to the "Willerton Campaign Fund." All contributions are greatly appreciated. Big ones just a little bit more so.

Diefenbaker lost five elections before winning one and becoming the prime minister of Canada. Churchill financed his early election campaigns through the sale of his books. Our own esteemed colleague Ed Goodliffe brought that little tidbit to my attention when I knocked on his door in 2001 campaigning toward an election - selling my book - and I've of course been doing it ever since.

I am, of course, neither of the above men. I'm just Jeff, a guy scratching and clawing his way up from the bottom who, with your help now, will change the way things are done in this province.

Yours in the cause of defeating liberal governments everywhere,

Jeff Willerton

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Leadership Race Moves into Northern Alberta

This week saw the leadership race to replace Paul Hinman as leader of the Wildrose Alliance party move into northern Alberta and Edmonton for the first time. In keeping with the the sequence of the race so far, it was Danielle Smith who made the first move by holding a public meeting at the Nisku Inn just south of Edmonton. Following a presentation by oil industry expert Dave Yager, Danielle spoke at length about the PC government's mismanagement of Alberta's oil industry and called for an overhaul of the New Royalty Framework. A memorable line from Danielle's speech was that that "People will say we look like an oil patch party, but someone has to defend this industry." And she announced that she wants to lead the Wildrose Alliance party to become "a center-right party that is fiscally conservative and socially moderate." Interestingly enough, some attendants spoke about their disappointment that the federal Canadian Alliance fell apart when it merged with the PCs to become the Conservative Party.

Only sixteen hours later Mark Dyrholm attended a breakfast meeting at Whitespot's on Calgary Trail in Edmonton hosted by the Progressive Group for Independent Business. After the local chapter of the PGIB concluded its business, Mark addressed the table about the need to provide a true conservative alternative to Albertans and return the province to its Reform Party roots. Following on that theme, he gave a radio interview on Edmonton's CHED radio in which is remarked "I believe we're at a talk to PC people behind the scenes they are deeply discontent and they want something else to vote for..."I've been a lifelong Conservative. I've been a constituency president. I've sat on many different levels but right now he has moved away from the values that Albertans have voted for. And what we're putting on the plate is a different way of voting for these same Reform values." Attendants expressed particular interest in cutting regulations that increase operating costs of health care and small businesses.

The leadership race between Smith and Dyrholm seems to have provided the spark the Wildrose Alliance needed to begin making inroads into Edmonton and Northern Alberta. In Alberta's provincial election last year, the party received a lesser percentage of the vote in Edmonton than any other part of the province. No doubt both campaigns are paying attention to Edmonton as the leadership convention is scheduled to be held in the city on October 17 of this year. Although vote will be conducted by mail-in ballot, but the effect of having more supporters on the convention floor will no doubt help get out the vote in those final crucial hours. This week Danielle kicked-off the leg of her campaign in northern Alberta by addressing oil industry workers in Nisku, while Mark began by speaking with small business owners in south Edmonton. Let the battle of northern Alberta begin!

Danielle Smith Loses Sixty Facebook Followers in One Day?

Yesterday I came across an interesting blog posting titled "Still Just for fun...Mark Dyrholm team closes the "interweb" gap!" at the Calgary Rants blog at . Shane writes that in the ten days since June 14, the Dyrholm campaign has caught up to Smith's campaign in both the number Facebook and Twitter followers. He cites the following numbers on this blog:

June 24:

Danielle Smith:

Facebook: 235 Followers.

Twitter: 911 Followers

Mark Dyrholm:

Facebook: 212 followers
Twitter: 727 Followers

I have highlighted the number of Facebook followers he reported for Danielle Smith since I've been closely following the Wildrose Alliance leadership race unfold on the internet. Yesterday he reports her having 235 followers. Today at noon I checked Danielle Smith's facebook page and she had only 175 followers. Since I'm assuming the Calgary Rants blog has reported yesterday's number accurately, this means that Danielle lost 60 followers in one day! This wouldn't just mean that the Dyrholm campaign is closing the "interweb gap", it means Danielle's online campaign is rapidly bleeding support while Mark's online campaign is steadily pulling ahead.

Of the two campaigns, it has been reported that the Dyrholm campaign has far more youth involved. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are often the most popular with the younger demographic. Could these young volunteers be the factor that is giving the Dyrholm campaign the current edge in the "interweb war"? We'll have to wait and see how this continues to unfold:

As of noon today, June 25th, Danielle Smith had 175 followers.

Here's the link to her facebook fan page:

As of noon today, June 25th, Mark Dyrholm had 225 followers.

Here's the link to his facebook fan page:

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Grading the Campaign Websites of the Wildrose Alliance Leadership Contestants

Although web sites are just one tool that modern political campaigns use, they are becoming increasingly important in this high tech world. I have decided to grade the web sites of the two leadership candidates for the Wildrose Alliance Party, Danielle Smith and Mark Dyrholm. Marks are similar to grade school with A being the highest mark, and F being the lowest.

Danielle Smith’s web site:

Mark Dyrholm’s web site:


Danielle Smith’s web site:

[Grade - B] Shows Danielle Smith wearing a bright red suit. Her picture capitalizes on her good looks, but the page could use more blue and green colour.

Mark Dyrholm’s web site:

[Grade - B] Shows Mark Dyrholm with his endearing wife and son. The use of colour works well, but an overuse of text makes the page look cluttered.


Danielle Smith’s web site:

[Grade - C] ‘Let’s Make It Happen’ is catchy enough, but frankly it could be the slogan for any political campaign. Kudos to Danielle for incorporating it in her stump speeches so it sticks.

Mark Dyrholm’s web site:

[Grade - A] ‘Reforming Alberta’ is a superb slogan because it gives the candidate instant credibility with the Reform Party roots shared by most Albertans. But its loses effect because Mark never seems to use it in speeches.


Danielle Smith’s web site:

[Grade - D] This is the truly astounding part of the web site. For someone running for leader of a major political party you need a biography consisting of far more than four or five short paragraphs.

Mark Dyrholm’s web site:

[Grade - B] Overall the web site gives a good feel for Mark’s political roots. The web site only gets a ‘B’ because in some parts there is too much information that could be more concisely summarized.


Danielle Smith’s web site:

[Grade - A] Displays a straightforward and user-friendly site. Campaign news update are on the main page and are instantly accessible.

Mark Dyrholm’s web site:

[Grade - B] Demonstrates a professional and clean look, but there are too many links. Duplicate information is a problem and news updates are not readily available.


Danielle Smith’s web site:

[Grade - B] Instantly easy for visitors to use the web site to take out a membership, make a donation, or volunteer for the candidate. Disappointing that the web site does not make it easier to donate by taking credit card information online.

Mark Dyrholm’s web site:

[Grade - C] Although visitors can see the section where memberships, donations, and volunteering are encouraged, the page that appears makes it unclear if your are becoming a party member or donating. Credit cards can be processed on-line.


Danielle Smith’s web site:

[Grade - C] The navigability and usability of this site is good, but the site is lacking on its appearance and slogan. The site is sorely lacking on information about its candidate. Visitors should be able to read much more about Danielle’s political background.

Mark Dyrholm’s web site:

[Grade - B] The appearance and slogan of this site is good, but the navigability and usability of this site could be simplified and cleaned up significantly. What stands out is that visitors can quickly identify Mark’s biography and policies.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Wildrose Alliance 2009 AGM Sets the Stage for the Party’s Leadership Race

By Mike Walker, Walker’s Blog 06-10/09

The AGM of the fledgling Wildrose Alliance party was held at the Bearspaw Community Centre in suburb of Calgary on June 5th and 6th. The room was with filled with what looked to be well over two hundred attendants. This was an impressive number for a party not even two years old.

Party President Jeff Callaway first addressed the attendants as they arrived on Friday evening and introduced outgoing party leader, Paul Hinman. The former MLA made a heartfelt speech about his many years of public service made on behalf of Albertans.

The line up of speakers throughout the AGM was impressive. The included Nadeem Esmail from the Frasier Institute, John Carpay of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, and David Yager of the Petroleum Services Association of Canada and writer for the Calgary Herald.

But the most important speeches were from two of the leadership contestants. The first leadership contestant to speak was Danielle Smith who recently resigned her position with the CFIB. And the second was Mark Dyrholm, a chiropractor and Vice-President of the PGIB.

Last of the main speakers to address the attendants at the AGM was Prime Minister Harper’s advisor Tom Flanagan. The conservative strategist spoke about how conservatives through the 80s and 90s incorrectly believed that the free market could create a utopian society on earth.

Somewhat of a surprise was that the policy proposals that were made at the AGM were of very little real consequence. For anyone who attended the AGM, it was evident that it was the speeches made at the AGM that set the tone for the entire venue.

President Jeff Callaway did an admirable job as the MC of the event, but at times seemed a little too nervous and unable to bring he room to attention. The only real disappointment from Jeff was that he made no mention that June 6th also happened to be D-Day and Tax Freedom Day.

Outgoing leader Paul Hinman gave a gracious speech delivered with some of the folksiness one would expect from someone with strong rural roots. Compared with subsequent speeches at the event, one would suspect his lack of charisma is only a media creation.

Armed with numerous power point slides, Nadeem Esmail spoke passionately and effectively as he usually does about the plight of health care in Alberta. John Carpay quoted Voltaire to emphasise that free speech must allowed for all Canadians, even Bill Whatcott.

David Yager’s speech was all about how Evil Ed destroyed Alberta’s oil industry. His power point presented the premier in such an unflattering light, that you were left wondering if it was possible he was asked to remove a slide that had a picture of the Premier shaking hands with the devil.

The biggest surprise of the AGM was Danielle Smith. Despite being praised by so many in the media and libertarian pundits alike about her ability to communicate, her performance was pleasing but overly rehearsed. Despite a strong speech, there was very little warmth in her style.

Her main rival Mark Dyrholm came in with no expectations from the audience whatsoever and gave a speech in which he spoke passionately about his conservative roots as a young man in the Reform Party. In contrast to Danielle’s, his past suggests a strongly conservative candidate.

Tom Flanagan demonstrated his intellectual vigour and good humour, but it was obvious that he is more comfortable in an academic environment that appeals to the intellectual curiosity of students. He did not rouse the attendants, but skillfully answered all questions from the floor.

The speeches suggest a competitive leadership race was kicked off at the party’s AGM. It will be the more media-saavy libertarian candidate who grew up in the PC Party, Danielle Smith, against the more family-oriented conservative candidate who grew up in the Reform Party, Mark Dyrholm.