What are you telling the ministers?

Today, Ralph’s successor is taking a page out of the master’s playbook and has directed his sizeable cabinet to hit the hustings and see what the folks in Yourtown, Alta. have to say. They’re popping up like rhubarb in your backyard.

He cares. He listens.

Almost 10 years and several elections ago, that was the campaign hokum Premier Ralph Klein used to secure his biggest election victory. He got this highest level of support in the 2001 election, hoodwinking 62 per cent of Albertans and winning 74 of the legislature’s 83 seats.

Today, Ralph’s successor is taking a page out of the master’s playbook and has directed his sizeable cabinet to hit the hustings and see what the folks in Yourtown, Alta. have to say. They’re popping up like rhubarb in your backyard.

“An important part of our job is listening to Albertans,” Premier Ed Stelmach said. “We’ve made a commitment to communicate better and these cabinet visits to communities across Alberta is one way we are fulfilling that promise.”

OK, so they’re listening. What do Albertans have to say?

Waves of cabinet ministers last week breezed in and out of select meetings with select Albertans in select communities to take their pulse, make some announcements and present a few giant cheques.

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ray Prins welcomed 10 ministers to the constituency last week. The group had been barnstorming in Camrose and Wetaskiwin and stopped in Ponoka for an hour before making an announcement later in Lacombe that the provincial government has committed $8.8 million to fund 88 assisted living care beds at the Royal Oak residence, northeast of the town.

This tour is all about shoring up waning support among Grumpy Old Tories in rural Alberta. It was a meeting of the converted, the choir singers from town and county council, school boards, key service groups and the business community. In other words, local elected officials whose own re-election this fall could hinge on how much money the province provides in grants for municipal infrastructure projects.

While in Ponoka, some of the ministers did meet with ordinary folks: Solicitor General Frank Oberle met with RCMP brass, Gene Zwozdesky toured hospitals in Ponoka, and a few ministers visited the cattle auction mart to deliver a load.

The meeting though was not convened to hear what ordinary folks have to say about hospital wait times, oil and gas royalties, deficit spending, retraining for unemployed Albertans, the futility of farming or Alberta’s economic competitiveness on the world stage. If it had been, the government would have announced the meetings in community newspapers, the meetings would have been held when ordinary folks are likely to have some free time and they would have had some agenda or purpose. Cabinet ministers might have been better off having a double-double and a sandwich with the coffee crowd, or a couple of cold ones at the hotel with the boys from the welding shop. They could have talked to seniors at the lodge or moms helping out at their child’s daycare centre.

What these cabinet ministers will hear — and the premier too if he is back in the province before the tour concludes in June — is that it’s too little too late. The Wildrose Alliance has turned in a mediocre performance in the past year but is still giving the 40-year-old Progressive Conservative dynasty a run for its money. If a party with retread MLAs and an unelected leader can force the government to chase its own tail, what does it say about the priorities and popularity of the government?

For many Albertans the problem with politics in the province today is a matter of leadership: they feel Premier Stelmach is not providing any and Danielle Smith is the only thing the Wildrose party has going for it. If you could only mix the peanut butter with the chocolate.

It remains to be seem how well grounded the dissatisfaction with the government really is. Can either the Wildrose party or the Progressive Conservatives really count on this soft support on election day in a year or so?

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Ice racing at Mulhurst Bay at Pigeon Lake

Results of the ice racing event at Pigeon Lake

Maskwacis RCMP lay charges from home invasion

Four charged in alleged invasion using knives and gun on Samson Cree Nation - three injured

UPDATE: Highway 2 lanes were closed due to milk truck fire near Millet

A southbound truck hauling milk and cartons collided with a bridge

Ponoka Airport taxiway improvement costs overrun

The $328,000 project increased to $359,000, gravel cited as main reason for the increase

Ponoka County council looks at how it sees collaboration

County wants separate negotiations with Ponoka, Rimbey

WATCH: Ponoka residents enjoy first skate on ice path

A community initiative helped create a skate path for families in Ponoka.

Suspected Toronto serial killer targeting gay community arrested

A 66-year-old man is charged with first-degree murder in disappearance of two Toronto men

Barenaked Ladies, Steven Page, to be inducted into Canadian Music Hall of Fame

Canadian band to get top honours at 2018 JUNO Awards

B.C. out of the running for Amazon’s next headquarters

Toronto is the only Canadian city left in the running despite the province backing Metro Vancouver’s bid for new Amazon headquarters

Post interest rate hike debt tips

What to do about your debt and mortgages after the interest rate hike

Foreign workers sleeping in Alberta Burger King basement

Alberta Health Services said its inspectors found foreign workers sleeping in the basement of the Lethbridge restaurant

Court application halts release of bread price-fixing documents

Bread price-fixing documents won’t be unsealed Thursday, Loblaw says

Pharrell and N.E.R.D to headline NBA All-Star halftime show

11-time Grammy winner Pharrell and his hip hop-rock band N.E.R.D. will headline the halftime show at the 2018 NBA All-Star game in Los Angeles

Heritage Minister wants zero tolerance for harassment in entertainment industry

Heritage Minister Melanie Joly had two meetings to discuss harassment in the film, TV and theatre worlds

Most Read