On lobby groups, forums and astroturfing in the Calgary election.

Electoral forums play an important role in elections at all levels of government. These forums provide an opportunity for voters to watch candidates first-hand and hear them respond to the pressing issues of that particular campaign. Candidates can demonstrate their ability to respond on the spot to questions and can engage with other candidates of differing views if the forum format allows for such interaction. People who can’t go to a forum in person can still benefit through watching media summaries of the event as often these forums are covered by all types of media.


Calgary only held one mayoral forum with all of the candidates and it unfortunately was almost a complete waste of time as the forum was held and managed by a highly biased informal lobby group acting under the name of CivicCamp.


The most glaring evidence of the forum bias was in the twelve questions selected by this group calling themselves CivicCamp to ask of the candidates during the forum. Unlike most electoral forums where audience questions are allowed and candidates may debate each other on points, in this forum things were carefully orchestrated so that only twelve questions were to be presented and candidates had no means to respond to anything else aside from these twelve questions.

Let’s look at what the group calling themselves CivicCamp determined to be the twelve most important issues to Calgarians in this election.



  1. Will you release campaign donors.

  1. Do you support a living wage.

  2. Do you support secondary suites.

  3. Can we expect movement to urban agriculture

  4. How will you support Calgary poverty reduction initiative

  5. Sun Valley Blvd and Macleod trail.

  6. What role should city play in investing in artists.

  7. Do you believe the city requires a charter.

  8. Stance on cosmetic use of pesticides.

  9. What is your stance on curbside recycling.

  10. How will you repair flood damaged infrastructure

  11. What would a diverse economy look like in the city

While candidates and media are reporting spending, tax increases, vehicular congestion and public safety as being among the top issues of concern among Calgarians, apparently these did not make the top twelve questions at this CivicCamp forum.


If you are wondering why the twelve questions look like they were lifted right out of Mayor Nenshi’s campaign platform don’t be surprised considering Naheed Nenshi co-founded the group that wrote the questions. Of course Nenshi’s pet lobby group won’t ask those awkward questions about tax hikes or the demonization of industry that Nenshi has participated in. Banning audience questions ensured things never went of the choreographed rails.


Can we imagine a circumstance of more blatant bias than having an electoral forum hosted and managed by a group formed by one of the candidates? I sure can’t.


This group of people who called themselves CivicCamp lobbied City Council directly demanding massive tax hikes as can be seen in the letter accepted by council. Considering how Nenshi hiked property taxes 32% since being elected, I would say their lobbying was effective. No wonder they didn’t want voters asking about taxation at their forums.   Budget presentation letter


Let’s be clear here. This loose lobby group that acted under the name CivicCamp was not some simple group of volunteers seeking to hold election forums. This was a highly biased and ideologically driven lobby group that was hiding under the radar by refusing to even simply register as a non-profit society.


Below is a video of Naheed Nenshi giggling and wearing a CivicCamp shirt while celebrating their successfully lobbying the city council to embrace the controversial Planit document as well as the myopic street-closure promoted by Druh Farrell (the street festival was an unmitigated disaster and was discontinued after a couple of years).


Does Naheed Nenshi and this group of people have the right to lobby for preferred policies in city hall?


Of course they do. A person can’t pretend for a second however that this group of people is unbiased and should be presenting themselves as such during a civic election.


The CivicCamp group showed gross bias in Ward 11 when for their forum they gave Brian Pincott (Nenshi’s preferred candidate) an outright veto in choosing the moderator of the forum. Was this sort of power given to any other candidates? Apparently just loading and controlling the questions wasn’t enough, catering to the whims of their preferred candidates in selection of moderators was part of the deal too. In Ward 11 the CivicCamp gang aggressively pressured one of the candidates running against Pincott in their hypocritical finance disclosure campaign to the point of being on borderline harassment. While this candidate had disclosed his donors above and beyond what was legally required, it was not enough for the CivicCamp group. They called, emailed and literally even camped outside his campaign office doors at one point trying to get some sort of extra disclosure or something.


There are lobby groups and there are groups that try to facilitate unbiased political discourse. These are two very different things but CivicCamp with Nenshi’s help has managed to try and tie both of these roles into one group which hides from scutiny and never actually pursued or gained any legal form of existence. Despite not actually existing as a legal entity, this group has somehow managed to raise and spend money however which is a whole different area of contention to be examined later.


The properly registered CivicCamp that I and some others have formed is volunteer based, transparent, legal and is not trying to pretend that it does not carry a policy slant. Let’s hope that if Nenshi chooses to spawn further lobby groups in the future that these groups display the open honesty that we have as opposed to essentially astroturfing in the extreme for the Mayor’s electoral benefit.


 It is too late for this election, but let’s hope we don’t let a biased group take off with the management of these very importat electoral forums in the next civic election.

A biased view of the Alberta Liberal convention.

  Yes, I am biased. I see some Liberal types have been whining at bloggers and tweeters for their daring to show a bias when posting/tweeting about Alberta’s hapless Liberal Party. Uhh, well yeah that happens guys. Blogs and tweets are pretty much editorial content and people are putting forth their personal views as they are entitled and expected to do. What you Liberals should be wondering is why 80% of the province demonstrates a bias against you rather than whining about the bias itself.

  Alas, it appears that the forlorn and dwindling Liberal supporters in Alberta have disregarded the sage advice I provided in the posting the other day and have accomplished little to nothing at their annual general meeting last weekend. This should not be that surprising I guess. Alberta’s Liberals have stubbornly clung to their losing formula in Alberta for nearly 100 years. With 2009/2010 being a year of exceptional disappointments for the Alberta Liberal party (plummeting in polls, by-election losses, MLAs quitting and/or seeking other positions)one would think that Alberta’s Liberals may consider doing something different for a change. One in thinking that would be wrong.

 If Albertans were polled and asked what annoyed them most about Liberals, I suspect that Liberal arrogance would top the list. Liberals arrogantly don’t really ask Albertans what they think so the vicious-circle continues and the Liberal Party of Alberta continues to dwell in electoral obscurity.

 I would imagine that those few remaining stalwart Alberta Liberals must be getting pretty dejected by now. One thing that a convention can provide is an opportunity to rally and inspire the troops. A popular means to  doing this is by bringing in a bright and inspiring keynote speaker. Alberta’s Liberals however decided to bring in somebody who typifies the Liberal arrogance that the Alberta electorate despises by inviting the uber-belligerent Warren Kinsella to speak to their gathered membership.

 Ahh yes guys. Nothing would amuse Albertans more and endear them to you than bringing in Chretien’s former attack dog. The Prime Minister who implied that Alberta needed “tough love” really won the hearts of Albertans. Establishing your continued and fawning relationship with the Liberal party of Canada was a brilliant move as well. How many federal Liberal seats are there in Alberta again?

 Now let’s see, Kinsella advised in his speech that the Liberals should “get nasty” and exploit rifts within conservatives in Alberta. Not only are Liberals in Alberta disconnected with the electorate but they would have to be disconnected with basic mathematics in order to consider that to be wise advice. The Liberal party of Alberta currently is sitting at 23% support and is dropping. The combined support of the two parties that are considered to be conservative is around 60%. No matter what way you divide up 60% the Alberta Liberal party still loses here.

 The journal reported on Kinsella’s idiotic advice and the comments from readers were rather telling.  Here are a couple gems from the few Liberal supporting folks who commented:

“The Liberals have been undercut and dismissed so long by the big money right wing that many Albertans are so brainwashed that they cannot see them as the decent alternative that they are, Plus, they are not left wing they are central”

 How can you not love that? Albertans who reject the Liberals are clearly brainwashed and the Liberals are not left wing. This after a baseless shot at an apparent “big money right wing”. Alberta’s Liberals should not only learn to listen to the electorate, they really should listen to themselves some time. The electorate is listening to the Liberals thus the rejection of the Liberals at election time.

 “60% of voters support right wing parties in Alberta? I can appreciate that all the displaced Americans in Calgary are trying to create Shrub’s Lil Texas in Alberta but I really thought real Albertans were too smart to cut their noses off to spite their faces. Unbelievable. Governments are here to serve the people not nameless faceless corporations and special interest groups. After almost 60 years in Alberta I will leave it gladly.”

 Sadly these are arrogant and idle threats. These folks don’t leave. They remain, they support Liberals while insulting Albertans while wondering why almost 80% of Albertans are rejecting them.

 Many have advised this to Liberals before but clearly Liberals and their supporters are not listening. I may as well say it again though it is likely pointless: Quit calling Albertans idiots for not supporting you!!  I assure you, it has not exactly helped you at the polls.

 Now, rather than examining themselves and asking what Albertans may want, our provincial Liberals decided to continue down that road of mathematical impossibility and came out with a useless yet divisive, fluffy resolution to cooperate with other “progressive” parties in the next provincial election. Clearly these folks are not aware that parties considered not to be “progressive” make up more than 60% of the voting electorate. Some claim that the non-voting population will rescue the Liberal party. That idiotic notion is fodder for a future posting.

  The NDP holds a small but solid following within Alberta. Even if 100% of the current NDP supporters suddenly voted Liberal, the Liberal party still could not form government. Rest assured that the NDP voters are not looking to go Liberal anyway so this cooperative notion really is foolish to say the least.

 The Calgary Glenmore by-election of last summer gave a perfect example of the futility of this concept of uniting the “progressive” parties. I was there for every day of that by-election and while I was quite busy with the WAP campaign, I was able to peripherally watch the campaigns of the other parties. Here is the one conclusion that so many Liberals can’t seem to get from that campaign: the “progressive” parties were united in Calgary Glenmore under Avalon Roberts, they gained nothing!!

 The Green Party was gone and the NDP ran a candidate who did no campaigning and as far as I can tell never even set foot in the city during the campaign. The “progressive” field was wide open for the Liberals. The Liberals threw everything they had at the campaign. Volunteers came from around the province while their MLAs dedicated time to things such as hypocritically campaigning outside of polling stations while decrying others doing the same thing (as Kent Hehr did). The turnout was very similar to that of the provincial election and the Liberals did not gain a point! The only thing the Alberta Liberals could have gotten out of that election was a lesson and in light of last weekend’s convention they clearly did not get that.

 Calgary Glenmore was a PC stronghold. The voters of Calgary Glenmore were prepared to reject the PC party and they did. It appears that none of those voters went to the Liberal party however. They went to the Wildrose Party en-masse as did the few Green voters who were there. The Liberals gained nothing despite their best efforts.

Please think about the above paragraph dear Liberal reader. Why were you rejected yet again? It was because you have not changed. What part of Albertans don’t vote Liberal do you not understand? How many decades of rejection will it take for this to get through to you? Even if won’t change the name, quit associating with the federal Liberals for crying out loud.  You guys remind me of that handful of stubborn Social Credit members seeking a time machine that will suddenly bring us back to supporting a theocracy based on flawed monetary theories. It won’t happen folks and the heady days when Decore took you to the right are gone too.

  Albertans are not going to change for the political ideals of Liberal stalwarts thus the Liberal stalwarts had best re-examine themselves.

 Some folks have broken away from the provincial Liberals and they have something of a clue anyway. They are actually trying to listen to Albertans or at least are pretending to. They appear to have put “progressive” filters over their own ears and are likely never going to go beyond being a social-club holding small meetings of like-minded people.  Those Alberta Party supporters still at least realize the futility of the Alberta Liberal approach. These people realize that Albertans want to be listened to. I suspect that these self-styled “progressives” won’t like the answers they would get if they broadened their meetings to Albertans at large as opposed to people within their own small circle.

 The staunch “big listeners” are already eying the Liberal idea with a jaundiced eye as are Alberta’s NDP.

 Albertans have had enough of the PC party and are seeking an alternative. With the clear lack of understanding demonstrated by Alberta’s Liberal party at last weekend’s convention, it is clear that the alternative party for Alberta remains to be the Wildrose Alliance Party.  

 The WAP remains a true grassroots party and was formed based on the needs and wants of Albertans as opposed to misguided ideals. Despite repeated efforts by Liberals and PCs to label the WAP as extreme, the Wildrose continues to establish itself as the alternative government within Alberta. Alberta voters are not as stupid as Liberals continue to assume and that has been reflected in the polls. While PCs and Liberals continue to spit outward, the WAP is looking inward and creating the party that Albertans want.  The Liberals really could have filled that role had they embraced populism but clearly they had no such interest in such a concept.

 The Reform Party swept Alberta and many of our federal seats are still held by Reformers. The PCs and Liberals kept telling Albertans (wrongly) that the Reformers were extremists. That strategy failed utterly as the PCs and Liberals got themselves essentially shut out from federal politics within Alberta. Despite this clear and stark lesson, Alberta’s provincial PCs and Liberals seem insistent upon repeating history on a provincial scale. I guess as a WAP supporter I should be happy about this but it does pain me to see folks who think they are so bright continue down a road so foolish. The day after election dejection must be unreal for Alberta’s handful of Liberal supporters.