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Ric McIver Tory leadership campaign lurches to life

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Ric McIver

Ho-hum. After days of virtual silence, former infrastructure minister Ric McIver made the first official appearance of his campaign for the leadership of Alberta's geriatric Tory dynasty at an Edmonton old-folks' home yesterday morning.

Judging from the poor-quality CBC live-feed of the event, McIver's heart wasn't quite in it. But maybe I'm projecting -- people keep telling me not to under-estimate McIver, so I won't -- but he sure looked like a guy who would rather have been somewhere else doing something else.

News reports said there were about 25 seniors at the event, and they probably would have rather been doing something else too. Shuffleboard, maybe.

But, hey, in for a dime, in for a dollar -- McIver said he was going to run and he pushed back when heir apparent Jim Prentice's secret agents tried to get him to quit the race, or so he said, so there's nothing for it now but to load up his pickup truck with his camping gear and drive around the province until the ordeal is over in September. If the weather improves, it could even be a nice summer for him.

Folks will probably like him out there in the hinterlands, because he looks a bit like G. Gordon Liddy -- you know, sort of like a cop with a big authoritative moustache who could crack a few heads and keep the city slickers in Redmonton in line.

As for his platform -- which can’t really be scrutinized because his campaign website isn’t up and running yet -- he seems to have cast himself as the Anti-Redford.

No senior member of the of the campaign team will be eligible for government contracts (the former premier’s ex-husband and transition team leader Robert Hawkes's law firm springs to mind), the premier's chief of staff will make less money than the premier (a reference to well-paid Redford chief of staff Farouk Adatia) and lobbyists won't be allowed to work for the government while they lobby (jeeze, this could be anybody).

McIver averred that the people of Alberta will be his bosses, promised more money for municipalities and, in deference to the venue, vowed to implement a friendlier re-test for elderly drivers.

That said, McIver had to spend a lot of time at the newser resisting the efforts of a monomaniacally persistent radio reporter to say something negative about Redford's controversial Sky Palace plans for a secret first-ministerial bedroom suite atop a provincial building in downtown Edmonton.

McIver refused to take the bait, remaining manfully inside his message box repeating that he would only have one office in Edmonton, thank you very much. It sounded as if he found the exchange as pointless and unsatisfying as everyone watching must have.

Beyond that, I can’t tell you much about McIver, who seems to be a bit of an interprovincial man of mystery. He was born somewhere, and moved to Alberta in his mid-20s from there or somewhere else. Before he became a professional politician on Calgary City Council, he did something in the food industry. For someone. And also for himself. The scant details available are mostly found on his official legislative biography. I await a return email from his constituency office with more details, which will be duly passed on to readers.

Meanwhile, while we wait and the already exhausted leadership race grinds on, Premier pro tempore Dave Hancock's cabinet has been busy sending mixed signals to public employees.

This week, Education Minister Jeff Johnson chose to continue his blood feud with the province's teachers, taking a kick at their combined union and professional association that looked like an easy win with the public, but may come back to haunt the government later on.

Meanwhile, Kyle "Leaky" Fawcett, newly proclaimed jobs and stuff minister by Hancock to replace Thomas Lukaszuk -- who is just now playing the role of the third wheel on the Tory leadership racing car -- was trying to curry favour with the civil servants in his new department.

Johnson still seems to be mad about Alberta Teachers Association delegates voting "no confidence" in his cabinet role at a meeting earlier this month, something Hancock rather unavoidably ignored. So with plenty of fanfare, he overturned some ATA discipline he deemed "too soft" against several teachers found guilty of abusive behaviour toward students, misappropriation of funds and the like.

There's no way the ATA -- which one could argue comes with a built-in conflict because of its dual disciplinary-representational role, something the same Tory government has permitted and even encouraged over the years -- can win a media micturition match with Johnston about this.

Just the same, what seems like a sure winner with a public that’s not really paying attention and the columnists in the Sun Media commentariat may not go over well the province's hypersensitive and increasingly irritated teachers. This wouldn't be a problem except for the fact they can normally be counted on to vote Progressive Conservative en masse in a pinch.

So Johnson's provocative public gesture, which probably could have been accomplished diplomatically behind closed doors, may come back to bite the Tories in the next general election.

Meantime, Fawcett was provoking guffaws among employees of the Ministry of Jobs, Skills and Other Worky Stuff with his emailed effort Tuesday afternoon "to take a quick opportunity to say hello on what has been a truly thrilling week for me and my family."

"As you may know, yesterday I was sworn in as the Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour," the charter member of Alberta's original Fiscal Four, who in 2009 vowed to wear black until the province was back in the black, emailed his new departmental staff. "What an honour! I am passionate about public service, and the responsibility I am accepting today is not something I take lightly. Alberta is an amazing place with amazing people."

"The work you do and that we will continue to do together will help ensure we have safe and productive workplaces, and are well positioned to address the labour market challenges that a strong economy creates," he continued larding it on. "I am excited to get started."

There followed a long list of Fawcett's accomplishments (University of Calgary degree in political science, school board trustee, yadda, yadda), then an effort worthy of Prentice to establish his blue-collar street cred: "Both my dad and brother are tradesmen, and I hope that my familiarity with the trades will serve me well in my new role."

Tears of hilarity were shed all 'round.

+ + +

National Post, you have achieved perfection … now get lost!

The National Post, I think, should just close down.

I have said this in the past, too, but on those occasions I am prepared to admit my comments were influenced by bitterness and bile. This time, though, my recommendation is based on pure admiration.

The Post, better known in professional circles as the Pest, founded by the revered Lord Black of Crossharbour, who is nowadays better known as Lord Black of Harbourfront, has achieved journalistic perfection. Nirvana! Since they can do no better, I say they ought not to try.

I refer, of course, to the headline on Andrew Coyne's column yesterday, "Tim Hudak's bogus Million Jobs plan is no reason not to vote for him," a reference to the pathetic lies told by the Ontario Conservative candidate about how many jobs his platform will create. (Hint: Not nearly a million.)

You may have thought this headline was satirical, as did I when I first I spied it. But, no, it is an accurate reflection of Coyne's central thesis, and Coyne appears to be in earnest.

So this is the perfect headline, the perfect column and the perfect argument for the neoliberal aesthetic: Just because we cheated you and lied to you is no reason not to love us. In fact, you’d better love us … or else!

I'd say you just can’t make this stuff up, except, of course, that’s exactly what Hudak did, and what Coyne thinks Ontarians should overlook.

Hudak, Coyne, the Post, the lot of them. They have all achieved perfection. And we love them for it. Really. Now, would they all please just sod off?

This post also appears on David Climenhagfa's blog, Alberta Diary.

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