Campaign notes: Calgary Herald donates to PCs, election may be a dead heat

| April 23, 2012 | 0 Comments

Buy Evergreen candidate a beer, he deserves it

Markham Hislop, publisher of Beacon News

By Markham Hislop       

Election day is upon us and this poor journalist’s noggin has had about all the analyzing it can crank out in 800 words or less. As an alternative to real work, here are bits and bites from the campaign that will hopefully amuse and enlighten.

Screws turn on the Alberta election

Foreshadowing or an anomaly? After weeks of polls predicting a solid Wildrose majority comes a Forum Research showing the upstart contender and the PCs in a virtual tie, 38 per cent to 36. Wow. If the PCs come from behind to pull off a victory, or even a minority government, the 2012 Alberta election will have been one for the ages.

The poll has the Liberals and NDP in a dead heat at 11 per cent, while the fledgling Alberta Party polls 2.2 per cent and the Evergreens bring up the distant rear with 0.6 per cent.

Threehundredeight.com, a poll aggregator and analysis site, says it can no longer project what the outcome of today’s vote will be, but a Wildrose minority government is a real possibility.

But keep in mind that other polls only a few days ago were projecting a comfortable Wildrose majority. Is the Forum Research poll catching last minute changes in voter intentions or just out to lunch?

Tonight we’ll know the answer.

 

 

Eyebrows raised over Calgary Herald donation to Progressive Conservatives

A surprise donor showed up on the list released Sunday by the Progressive Conservatives – The Calgary Herald, which the Beacon has confirmed did not donate to Wildrose, the Liberals or the NDP.

I remember my first city editor telling me that if I took a source for coffee that I was to pay the tab. Coffee was 50 cents a cup in those days. We used to grab a cup at a little Chinese joint around the corner called Rose’s Cafe. My best memory of Rose’s was the aforementioned editor finding a bright pink rubber band in his Wonder bread with wilted lettuce ham sandwich one day.

The message was clear: the news is not for sale. Even the perception the news is for sale is deadly and to be avoided at all costs. Hence, the reason watery coffee showed up on reporters’ expense accounts.

Guy Huntingford, Herald publisher, says the donation is perfectly innocent. The newspaper has a tradition of buying tickets to the Premier’s Dinner and sends a reporter. Huntingford says it would buy tickets to the event regardless of which party was in power.

“I feel that’s a reasonable thing to do,” he said.

He stressed during an interview that the Herald is very careful not to do anything that would jeopardize its editorial integrity.

Peter Stockland, a former editor at the Herald and now a Quebec-based communications consultant, says that attending political events is the price of staying connected in Calgary. He cautions against leaping to conclusions about the nature of the donation, especially assuming that the Herald has compromised itself. But he does acknowledge that newspapers have to be eternally vigilant about maintaining the public perception that it is non-partisan.

“If your primary business is gathering and publishing the news in a fair, accurate and balanced way, it’s a basic two-stepper: 1) Don’t donate; or 2) If you absolutely must, donate equally to all,” he said in an email.

“Newspapers and journalists should at least go out of their way to appear impartial,” said Liberal Leader Raj Sherman, upon hearing of the donation. “It shouldn’t have happened and I trust it won’t happen again. From my experience, the Calgary Herald is a reputable institution.”

This is not the first time political partisanship at the Herald has come up in a Beacon news story. A few years ago a former Herald editorialist told me I would be surprised how many reporters at the paper held political party memberships. What really caught my attention was the gentle chiding in her voice, suggesting that I am a naif and should learn the way things really work around Calgary.

Maybe I am. But both Stockton and Sherman point out the importance of the appearance of journalistic independence. Perhaps the Herald will think twice before buying tickets to a political event during an election.

 

 

Raj Sherman is a mind reader

Four hours after my Sunday column argued that both the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose aren’t fit to govern Alberta, Liberal Leader Raj Sherman issued a press release making the same point.

“While the PCs and Wildrose spent their time airing dirty conservative laundry in public, the Alberta Liberals were the only party to put forward a plan for Alberta which is both bold and pragmatic,” Sherman said, conveniently ignoring the NDP, another party stuck at 11 per cent but which has, nonetheless, done a commendable job on policy.

I think Raj reads the Beacon. Rumour has it he’s quoted us several times in the legislature. For that reason alone we wish him good luck tomorrow.

Let’s hear one for the little guy

The political parties most likely to win an election naturally garner most of the media coverage, which is too bad because there are plenty of unsung candidates out there who deserve mention. One of those lesser lights is William Hamilton, the Evergreen candidate for Calgary-Elbow.

I love this guy. He cranks out press releases like he’s the Wildrose war room – only his are better written. Regardless of his electoral chances, which are slim to none, he acts just like a candidate on the verge of victory.

Hamilton ran for the Greens during last year’s federal election and I had a chance to interview him a few times. He’s earnest, thoughtful and respectful of the democratic process. People like him are the foundation of Canadian democracy.

So here’s a shout out to William Hamilton, exemplar of the little guy. He and his Evergreen colleagues are holding a post-election bash at the Pig and Duke pub, 1312 12th Avenue Southwest. If you have a moment, drop round and buy William a pint.  He deserves it.

By the way, the event starts at 6 p.m., but the press release notes that the candidate will arrive at roughly 8. Do take note.

 

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Category: Alberta Election, Analysis

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