Thursday, November 30, 2006

I support Ted Morton

I voted last Saturday and shall vote this Saturday for Ted Morton. Three candidates remain in the Progressive Conservatives Party's race for the Premiership, Morton, Dinning and Stelmach. I contend that Ted Morton is superior to either of those options.

As it currently stands, the PC Party of Alberta is an organization upon the brink of collapse. Its lack of ideas, direction and energy left it staggering through the last election like the walking wounded. Taking but a brief look at the numbers will very easily explain why the Progressive Conservative Party lost ground in the last election. It was not that former PC voters went over to the Liberals or the NDP - their numbers have essentially been static in provincial and federal elections. The PC Party lost 200,000 votes because many Conservatives in the province chose to vote for the Alberta Alliance to protest the party's poor performance or they simply stayed home.

"During 2001, in the provincial election, 627,252 people voted for PC Alberta. Contrast that with 358,193 people who voted Lib/NDP. I'm counting the Libs and the NDP as a single block for several reasons, which will become clear later on. In the 2004 provincial election, 416,886 people voted for PC Alberta, compared to 352,566 who voted Lib/NDP.Going federally, in 2004, 786,271 people voted for the CPC. Contrast that with 401,745 who voted Lib/NDP. In 2006, 931,701 voted CPC, compared to 386,608 for the Lib/NDP."

Essentially the threat to the Progressive Conservative Party is not the growth of its opponents, as they are for the most part static. The parties on the left can attract between 350,000-400,000 voters to the polls. Whereas the provincial and federal conservative parties can field anywhere from 500,000 (counting PC and AA votes in the last election) - to 900,000 voters.

In the last provincial election the Progressive Conservative Party lost ground not because the NDP or the Liberals had done anything different or special. The Progressive Conservative Party lost ground because it lost touch with the grass roots of the party. It lost touch with the ideals, the priorities the aspirations and beliefs of the average conservative voter. Conservative parties and Alberta have thrived when they've been populist, but run afoul when they smacked out of elitism and faux conservatism.

The route to victory for any conservative in Alberta, is not to try to convert Liberals and dippers. Rather the route to victory is to appeal to the majority of the province, with its populist, capitalist and conservative outlook. Tapping into that sentiment is the difference between Kim Campbell's campaign and Preston Manning's.

Only one man of those remaining captures that spirit - Ted Morton.

Ted Morton had the energy, ideas and policy to reinvorgate the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party and lead us into the future as a strong and proud province. Ted's firm stance in favour of provincal rights, working towards a more assertive Alberta, reforming health care and leading the province into reclaiming jurisdiction over services such as policing and a pension plan will provide a needed injection of policy into the listless provincal Tory void. His commitment to a referenda promoting saving 30% of future fossil fuel revenues for the future, will also establish a needed commitment to our future and also indicates Ted's deep commitment to democracy.

Ted Morton is uniquely positioned at this point in our provinces history to lead our province forward. He can bring disenchanted conservatives in the Alberta Alliance back to the fold, and sooth the conserns that the Party under Ralph had began to list to the left spending money like it was going out of style. He can also bring many disaffected conservative voters who chose simply to stay home or to participate solely in the federal party to the PC cause, which is invaluable as the need to fundraise and recruit volunteers is ever present in politics.

Two men currently are the alternatives to Ted Morton, one is Jim Dinning and the other is Ed Stelmach. I like Ed Stelmach. By all accounts is a decent guy and he's been a good MLA for a number of years running and I've read some interviews with him and he sounds like a humble and honest fellow. I'm happy there are guys like Ed Stelmach in politics, and he'd be a great deputy Premier or Minister of Something in a Ted Morton government. Likeability and the lack of anything offensive about him are one thing, but Stelmach doesn't provide the needed sense of Zeitgeist to the PC Party. The charisma, the ideas and the direction aren't coming from Ed, he's a competent manager and a good MLA but he's not the man to lead the charge for renewal. Although he is preferable to Jim Dinning.

Speaking of Jim Dinning he's the remaning candidate for premier. Dinning has been running to be Premier of Alberta for the last decade and at the moment he appears to be seeing all his dreams slipping away from him. Over the last number of days he's been ranting and raving and making the whole leadership campaign about Ted Morton. If you changed the name Jim Dinning to Paul Martin and Ted Morton to Stephen Harper, I feel like I'm living through a rerun of the last federal election. Apparantly Ted Morton has a dragon in his shed, whose going to consume small children while reading passage from the book of Revelations - Jim Dinning is not allowed to make this stuff up.

Jim Dinning has the same, I'm everything to everyone campaign platform as Martin did too. Jim Dinning loves puppies, rainbows, and candy and doesn't seem to propose any substantive change. Not to mention the rather infamous fact that Jim Dinning wrote a 25,000 cheque to the Paul Martin leadership campaign and attached a personalized love letter to dear old Paul. While Nancy McBeth whose last forray into electoral politics saw her running against the PC Party as leader of the Alberta Liberal Party is also a big Jim Dinning supporter. Heck he even ran he campaign against Ralph Klien for the PC Leadership. Dinning's apathy towards meaningful change, and his apparant fondness for all things Liberal will only antagonize the rank and file of PC party support.

The only difference between a Jim Dinning PC party and a Kevin Taft Liberal Party would be the names. That's not acceptable to me, and that's not acceptable to a whole lot of others Conseratives in this province. Hence on Saturday its Morton for premier - everyone get out and vote Ted needs your support to lead this province forward.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Whither Individual Responsibility?

Canada as a country is beset by many problems, however, arguably none bedevils this country like the decline in individual responsibility. I could direct this particular line of thought towards the infantalizing qualities that bloated social programs have insidously inflicted upon the country. Yet while those are detrimental, wasteful and often misguided in their intentions its the constant news stories of kids in their early teens committing crimes which I happen to find chilling. (scroll down towards the bottom)

Youth violence has become a serious problem in this country. I've posted links to instances in both Edmonton and Winnipeg, as they happen to be the cities I know best. However, kids under the age of 18 are committing murder seemingly over the most frivolous of things and truthfully out legal system seems woefully inadequate to deal with it. The Young Offenders act is one of those sorry manifestations of the philosophy of Jean Jacques Rousseau that Liberals love to embrace. Rousseau's claim to fame is that man himself was perfectable but it was bad systems of governance and social order that sullied his nature. Essentially - its society's fault, not the kid's fault but that their parents, community etc have failed them. Leading to the misguided notion that the response for the most part should be a slap on the wriste and a stern and earnest talking to, suggesting one not assault or murder any further people as that's undesirable behaviour.

I'm not entirely dismissive of environmental reasons for deliquent and criminal behaviour. I accept that broken homes and abusive parents can produce some screwed up kids. However, I refuse to accept that such a background as a "troubled teen" constitutes a get out of jail free card, or warrants the few years of jail time that teenage murderers recieve. Truthfully, its a farce that such outcomes aren't abnormal in what's entitled the "justice system".

Fundamentally, I consider the problem to be two fold with youth crime. Firstly, many of those committing offenses don't respect the legal system, the rule of law and the standard of behaviour expected of decent citizens. Secondly, they aren't afraid of the consequences of their actions, either in so far as getting caught or what they'll be subjected to should they be caught. To put it succiently the administration of justice in Canada needs alot less of Jean Jacques Rousseau and alot of more of Thomas Hobbes.

Hobbes' characterization of the human instinct, with its animalistic passions and nasty demeanour if not kept in check is likely far closer to the mark than the noble savage corrupted by the system that Rousseau espoused. He of course advocated the need for the corressive power of the state to keep peace and order where otherwise there would be chaos.

Being naturally inclined towards libertarianism I find it odd to find myself pitching for more government and more cohersive government at that. However, I've always found the cries for a privatized police force from some corners of that movement to be dogmatic and ill considered and a departure from thinkers such as Locke and Nozick. At this point in time, the state is failing in its one fundamental responsibility - maintaining the safety of its populace and subsequently in its administration of justice.

I applaud the efforts of Vic Toews to lower the age at which teenagers will be tried as adults serious criminal acts. However, I'm inclined to believe that more wide ranging action is necessary than that. I've never seriously understood how the claim could be presented that anyone over the age of ten short of mental defects could be unaware that murder and the like were fundamentally wrong. The reprehensibility of murder is culturally ubiquitious.

Beyond charging violent offenders as adults at a younger age, its necessary to raise the minimum sentence for violent crimes. I'd also suggest raising the maximum and denying parole for violent offenders. Aside from that the practice fo trebeling time served pretrial should be reduced to being credited on a one day to one day basis.

Increasing criminal sanctions applicable to youthful violent offenders (and violent offenders of all types for that mattter) is a very useful starting point to a comprehensive approach to turning the tide against the leniancy that has allowed this particular virus to incubate. Other measures are also necessary, including a substantial increase in policing across the country. Throwing the book at offenders is only useful, insofar as the offenders are caught. Furthermore, a substantial increase in law enforcement presences in communities will act to discourage those contemplating crimes due to the increased likelihood of being caught.

Finally, I lay alot of the blame for youth violence at the hands of the educational system. There are many fine teachers and would be teachers out there, I know I'm related to some of them. However, the educational system is first exposure that most kids have to the state and authority figures aside from their parents. As such schools play an important part in instilling children with the necessity of following the rules and discouraging anti-social and violent behaviour. Teachers, and principals for the most part are afraid of dealing with hostile parents and as such for the most part are notioursly lax in dealing with school yard bullies and misbehaving children. At this formative period children learn that the system coddles them and there aren't serious consequences for breaking the rules and one can get away with most anything. Schools need to take their disciplinary role seriously, and take stern action with misbehaving students and expell bullies. The need for the education system to eliminate the free pass, where one has to work hard not to pass one's academic course work also undermines the sense of responsibility that our education system needs to instill.

In short it should be a priority for Canadians to see that young offenders are punished more seriously in a court of law, that a larger police presence deters possible offenders, and that our educational system instills in deliquent youth a grudging respect for the system. Some of the people one reads about in the paper are likely lost causes, no alteration of procedures or deterents would set them on the straight and narrow. The sad fact is some people must be incarcerated to protect law abiding citizens from comming to harm and we shouldn't feel any compunction about doing so. However, many youthful offenders could likely be kept within the bounds of the law if fear and respect for the justice system were restored. Its time to start ingraining people at a young age with the concept that they are responsible for their actions.

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