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.