Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Musings, Meanderings and Meanings

Morton’s Machinations
I am delighted with the death of Bill 208 but would have liked to see the vote happen in the daylight of the Legislature so we could tell where the individual MLA’s were on defending minority human rights. The PC caucus did the right thing (eventually) a few years ago deciding by a 2/3 majority not to appeal the Vriend case but that was done behind the closed doors of a party caucus meeting. To those provincial politicians who might think personal religious beliefs trump individual Charter Rights all I can say is sometimes you have to put away your principles and do the right thing ;-}.

Fed Funds for Highway 63
Congrats to Wood Buffalo MP Brian Jean and the Hon. Ty Lund, Alberta’s hard working Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation. on bringing to fruition federal funding towards twinning some of Highway 63 to Fort McMurray. Ironically the former federal Liberal government was prepared to pay half the entire twinning before the 2004 federal election but the “Honourable” Guy Boutilier, the local MLA and the “Honourable” Lyle Oberg, the then Min of Infrastructure and Transportation seemed, “less than interested in federal assistance.” Then some high profile tragic deaths and the increasing numbers of accidents on 63 draws media attention and increases the public’s demands to fix the problem. Dr. Oberg gets kicked out of caucus and cabinet and we get better departmental leadership under Ty Lund and the very good constituency work of federal MP Brian Jean and voila – it happens...fed funds will finally flow for this project.

Local MLA Guy Boutilier has known for years that Highway 63 is part of the national highway system and therefore eligible for federal dollars. He did nothing to make it happen earlier, when it should have and could have. Why?

Oberg’s Musings on Industry Providing Housing in Fort McMurray
PC Leadership candidate and recently reinstated PC caucus member. Dr. Lyle Oberg says, in recent media reports, that industry should provide employee housing in Fort McMurray if they need it so desperately. Good thinking Lyle. The companies were prepared to do that over two years ago. The province’s response was a meaningless meandering through a political miasma around its land release policy and process. The province then had, and still has, total control over the only new developable residential land in the Fort McMurray area.

A number of companies had asked the government for these lands to be released to them so they could build housing for the construction and operations of oil sands projects they were committed to build. The CNRL Horizon project in particular was very active in pursuing the market price purchase of land from the province. They were undertaking to do the servicing, subdivision and development work and then to contract out the house construction but Oberg was then amongst the naysayer within the government at the time who killed the concept.

Months passed, RFP’s for land sales were issued and called back and finally a small amount of developable government owned land was released for bid. The remaining government land is still being released in phases, by the Seniors department if you can believe that. You are to be forgiven if you think this sound like a government process and policy proposal from the now defunct Rhinoceros Party. CNRL instead build a huge airstrip next to their project, they lease jumbo jets and fly workers in and home again on a regular schedule from all over the country. This adds to the overall project costs meaning you and I enjoy the extension of the 1% royalty rates on this project a lot longer due to the higher project costs this solution has incurred. Thanks Lyle.

Where was Lyle Oberg with this bright idea when industry was actually proposing it? Where was Oberg, the then Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation in coming forth to provide the necessary roads, overpasses, schools, hospital and long term care expansion and other local infrastructure requirements necessary and that go along with housing demands in Fort McMurray? The evidence was all in the 2004 Wood Buffalo Business Case. He has been a central player in creating the problems in Fort McMurray today.

The Rhinoceros Party slogan used to be “If you think the problems are bad…just wait until you see our solutions.” I can just imagine what other “solutions” Dr. Oberg has in store for us should he win this leadership race and becomes Alberta’s next Premier – heaven forbid.