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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Poll Says People Want Dryden - Who Will Liberals Select

Here are some fascinating poll results on the federal Liberal leadership from mid September. With the Quebec nation issue now gaining traction I wonder what the impact will be on these numbers. In a delegated convention method to pick a new leader after the first vote it is a free for all and you have wonder how delegates get their deals done and their "favours" granted and bestowed in the back rooms were we mere citizens rarely get to see.

Remember the CBC coverage of the PC Leadership Convention and the Mackay /Orchard deal - in writing - saying no merger with the Alliance. That lead right straight to the end of the federal Progressive Conservative party. Belinda merely crossed the floor. MacKay double crossed an entire political party.

I wonder if we will any similar level of candour and access to the backrooms especially around the Quebec Nation issue in Montreal at the Liberal convention.

Albertan's Not Pleased About Infrastructure Deficit

The Send ’Em A Message” survey rating so far of how well the Alberta government has been doing on maintaining public infrastructure like schools and roads are telling about the depth of discontent in the province.

Albertans’ are clearly not pleased with the government's performance in this regard. Only 6.73% believe the government is doing a very good to excellent job in dealing with the infrastructure deficit. A whopping 73.02% rate the government performance poor to fair in dealing with the infrastructure deficit. OUCH!

Again appreciate this is not a scientific poll but tells something of the collective wisdom of those who are engaged and concerned enough to participate and to try and help set some public policy priority concerns for the next Premier’s and his remaining 2 year term before the next election.

Facilities maintenance is not the only big concern for education policy makers and influencers. The local school boards and Trustees are trying to respond to the dual dynamics of growth and sustaining marginal schools with declining enrolments. They know a school is a key support to the viability of rural and inner city communities all through the province.

Some classic government blame shifting has been going on here caused be the tepid and less than timely response to critical funding demands from school boards to meet these needs. I have beat up on Oberg enough in this blog as of recent times but he was the Minister for infrastrucutre at the critical time aroudn these issues...I do not want to even go to the negative impact he had on the K-12 education system as Learning Minsiter when he was one fo the central causes of a teachers strike.

Public Interest Alberta, (http://www.pialberta.org/) and the various school boards and their associations are very actively engaged in the broader and deeper issues about K-12 education and trying to get political attention during the PC leadership race in some meaningful way. Check out their efforts and visit the various candidate’s websites for details of their commitments on education policy.

Finally take a few minutes and do the Survey and Send ‘Em a Message about what you would like to see as the top public policy priorities for the next Premier. Rate the government’s performance in some key policy areas and consider what you would say about recommending the candidates to friends and family.

In a democracy we always get the government we deserve - not participating is hardly a rational option if you are concerned about the future of your family and your province.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Survey Results Peg #1 Policy Issue - the Environment

So the initial responses of the Send ‘em a Message Survey” on Policy Channel has some interesting but very preliminary results, since we only went “live” last Thursday afternoon late.

Of the 15 issues presented the top four driving issues for participants Managing Environmental Issues @12.73%, followed by Ensuring Access to Quality and Timely Health Care at 11.62%. The next top two issues are Managing Growth @ 9.6% and Creating a Diversified Value Added economy @8.15%

This underscores the Preston Manning message of over a year ago that Albertans want a well managed economy at the same time they want the environmental issues dealt with. They are not seen as mutually exclusive but part of the same overall integrated, comprehensive whole systems approach.

Positioning the economy against the environment or visa versa is not acceptable according to what Albertans are indicating so far. They want both issues dealt with and they want them handled concurrently. The politician who can make that message their own and make it resonate with Albertans is going to get some serious support.

The next Premier, to be successful, is going to have to show they get this and are able to get on with doing something about it – results will count. We expect more than just a good effort.

The last thing Albertans want their next government to do more of (from participants so far) is any more lowering of taxes. The 22.01% who said do not spend any more time and effort lowering taxes send a message that we need our government to get some serious things done and to get on with them. More lowering taxes, a big part of the Klein Alberta Advantage remember, is not on the agenda as a positive policy driver this time around.

So invest 5 minutes and take the survey. Tell us what you think is the most and least important policy issues that need government attention. Then tell your friends and neighbours about it and send them this link or send them to this Blog to get access to the survey. The more input we get the more reflective of Alberta the results will be.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

A New Survey on Policy Issues in Alberta

There is a survey on our affiliated website Policy Channel. You are invited to participate. We are going to publish the results on Policy Channel and this Blog every Monday afternoon starting this Monday until after the second ballot on December 2, 2006.

This is not a scientific poll because it is not random or necessarily statistically reflective of the demographic, geographic or the socio-economic makeup of the province. Participants will self select but as regular readers of this Blog know the world is run by those who show up.” We cannot make winner predictions out of this survey. It is not about that.

It is not intended to be predictive of outcomes but rather to serve as a public policy insight gathering activity. Because it takes about 5 minutes including some thinking time – we believe participants are more likely to be engaged and interested in following and influencing public policy and politics in Alberta.

We are asking for you opinion on how the government has been doing in some key policy areas and for what recommendations you would make to friends and family regarding each candidate.

Finally we ask if you are or intend to become a PC Party member, your intentions about participating in the voting and how active you have been in various political activities.

It takes about 5 minutes and is not a bunch of yes-no easy questions - it makes you think.

Thanks for taking the time to participate. Again the survey is at Policy Channel

Good Morning Anonymous

I am presuming the last three postings by Anonymous in "Where is the Smear" posting of yesterday are from the same person but I may be mistaken. I suggest readers go to that posting and the comments for content and context before you continue on this entry. I also apologize for the length of this post. I think it was Socrates who said "If I had more time I could write a shorter letter."

Thanks Anonymous for the economic facts and details as well as the insights in the earlier postings (Where is the Smear) as well as the “supposition” comments regarding integrity. Let me assure you that yours and Dr. Stokes’ integrity is not at issue. My reasons behind this are at the bottom of this post.

At your invitation, I have some more questions.

First – please tell us who you are. You say you are “someone in the loop” and will reveal your identity soon. Will you also explain why you felt the need to keep your identity hidden now in a free and democratic society? In any event we look forward to knowing who you are and to making your acquaintance.

Second – please give the reference for locating the Gilbert Lauten Jung site you mentioned.

Third - can you clarify the first posting reference to crude, bitumen and SCO (Synthetic Crude Oil) price estimates “include the $30 price spread?" Are you talking the differential price between these forms of energy and are you saying that the oil sands industry price assumptions were used for bitumen and SCO in the model? I don’t understand the reference. I know energy commodity prices are somewhat seasonal as is the volume of use and presume that was all considered in the economic modeling for the next five years.

Fourth – does the reference you make to $9.5 B in tax cuts assume the average 1.2% increase in population growth over the 5 year review period? And were the Oberg net tax cut rates used in arriving at the $900 M cumulative simulative effect on tax revenues? What were the assumptions used in Alberta’s GDP over the next five years to reach the $900M cumulative figure?

Fifth – 1.2% per year seems a bit low as an assumption for Alberta’s average population growth over the next five years don’t you think?

The GOA stats at Alberta Finance show more recent economic and population growth significantly higher and a recent baby boom emerging with a 12.6 per 1000 population which will also have an impact. In 2003, 2004 and 2005 net migration population growth was 1.39, 1.43 and 1.62 per cent respectively. The actual numbers were 21,135, 22,475 and 56,084 in 2005 and 2006 appears to be larger still. This is not insignificant growth, I am sure you agree.

These new people coming to Alberta do not bring their homes, schools and hospital beds with them so we have to invest in public infrastructure to accommodate the growth – something Alberta has been ignoring for a decade or more. I note Dr. Oberg is on record saying he can overcome the multi-Billon public infrastructure deficit in 5 years and I presume those figures and the impact of growth issues are calculated in the model. Can you let us know what public infrastructure deficit numbers were used and the rationale for them?

Sixth - We are seeing enormous price increases in the current public infrastructure projects on the go of 40% and higher in the past year alone. What is the estimated cost premium tht was used for these projects over the five year period? We know the cost escalation is being caused by the over- heated economy, materials shortages, private sector project competition and the lack of skilled workers to complete projects in a timely fashion. Did the model project any economic slowdown due to project deferrals?

Plus what are the Canadian dollar and inflation assumptions around the remaining infrastructure deficit projects and what cost amounts was used for the additional projects like schools etc. we need right now, for the immediate future and over the five year review period to respond to the population growth throughout Alberta?

Seventh - Real GDP growth in 2001 at 2.0% and 2002 at 2.4% uses what fiscal year as the base for the calculations? Again the GOA stats at Alberta Finance for more current growth rates, which may be more reflective of the next five years than 2001 and 2002, show considerably higher numbers. In current terms the GDP growth in Alberta for 2003, 2004 and 2005 was respectively 13.5%, 9.3% and 15.3%. “Real” GDP using 1997 as the base for those years was 3.1, 4.3 and 4.5 per cent. In actual numbers GDP was $171,175M in 2003, $187,152M in 2004 and $215,858M in 2005. Pretty impressive numbers for a population of 3.2 million don’t you think?

I noted in the 4:40 am Anonymous Comment (insomnia or what”) the writer said “He (Dr. Stokes) was presented with a detailed costing of each of the policy elements contained in Blueprint for Prosperity and was given absolute free rein to apply the program within the context of his base case scenario of the Alberta economy.”

Who is it that prepared the “detailed costing” of the Oberg Blueprint for Prosperity that was supplied to Dr. Stokes? Did the detailed costing that was used come from the Oberg campaign and if so, did anyone confirm the “detailed costing” assumptions and calculations to give them independent veracity? I presume the detailed costing details and the identity of any independent third party verification will also be released in the near future. That seems to me to a critical element in all of this. Don’t you agree?

Finally – Please do not interpret these questions or comments as anything more than seeking clarification and understanding. Economic analysis and forecasting – like public opinion polling - is as much an art as it is a science as it has to make assumptions and has to be adaptive as circumstances change. That does not detract from it usefulness but it has to have a context and is subject to interpretation. The assumptions behind the economic model as well as what all is included and excluded and how the various elements are weighed all have a huge impact on the conclusions.

The current context is a hotly contested political campaign so people will tend to be skeptical. That should not in any way to be interpreted as disrespectful or of questioning the integrity of the Anonymous Commenter or the professional judgment or skills or integrity of Dr. Stokes, the economist who undertook the work. In fact I, as a citizen, appreciate and applaud Dr. Stokes for doing this professional task under these circumstances. Many others would simply shy away and avoid the challenge altogether.

Open, accountable and transparent democracy depends on citizens asking questions as much as government giving answers. The campaign process is abetted and democracy is better because professional people like Dr. Stokes provide their expertise to assist citizens decide on who we will entrust with our consent to govern us.

So thank you Dr. Stokes. Now let’s keep the dialogue going in an open, respectful and responsible manner.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Where is the Smear?

There are anonymous calls on this Blog for an apology by “Allie” in comments she made in the previous posting. I have read the comments and am at a loss to find where Allie “smears” Mr. Stokes, the economist who did the Oberg platform review.

No one is questioning the reviewer’s qualifications, credibility or integrity that I can see. Mr. Stokes qualifications are not in doubt. I think he is eminently qualified to do the work he did for the Oberg campaign. He also clearly knows he is offering an opinion as a professional economist in the context of a political campaign.

Surely then an ordinary citizen can state a personal reservation about the political context of a candidate who seeks a professional opinion that costs out their political campaign promises without it being characterized as a smear on the profesional who undertook the work. Over the years I have written legal opinions that others have disagreed with but that can hardly be construed as a smear on me as a lawyer. It is merely another opinion.

What Allie said was: “I am personally not too impressed with the costing of Oberg's promises (nor would I be with anyone else's for that matter). While I find it an interesting tactic - and aimed at the general Albertan who never really cares to understand politics too deeply - I also do not necessarily have any reason to trust a report that a candidate has paid people to produce that is so favourable of his own campaign structure.”

Further to this... what are the real chances that even if the costings in the report are close to being accurate that those will be the way the costs unfold in an Oberg Government? Who is to say that Dr Oberg will even make those same choices he has outlined once he is presented with other priorities?”

Let’s look for a minute at the factual content of Mr. Stokes’ a one page evaluation letter which is posted on Dr. Oberg’s website. He outlines two scenarios in evaluating the Oberg platform and he says he is measuring the Oberg platform for “sustainability” over a 5 year time frame only.

One scenario is characterized as a low energy prices and low economic growth and the other scenario is a high energy price and high economic growth. The assumptions he uses are interesting. In the Low Energy Scenario we have oil prices assumed at $42/bbl, gas at $6.25/gigajoule and economic growth in Alberta at only 2%. In the High energy Scenario we have oil prices assumed at $65/bbl, gas at $7.10/gigajoule and economic growth in Alberta at only 3%.

When was the last time Alberta’s economic growth was only 2 or 3 percent and is it reasonable to presume that rate of economic growth for the next five years given $42 or $65 oil and about $100Billion of oil sands project investment alone in process? Also what are the assumptions that were used for our population growth and the calculations for the impact of the Oberg tax cuts on the government’s revenues for the next five years? No doubt these were considered in evaluating the Oberg platform sustainability. Have I missed them?

I know when the oil sands industry is doing a project feasibility analysis for investment purposes they use $25 and sometime $30 oil prices. Mr. Stokes’ letter emphasizes the point that energy prices are volatile. In fact oil prices have dropped about 23% since July 2006. Mr. Stokes is obviously free to use what ever assumptions he wishes but I wonder on what basis $42 or $65 per barrel was used for the Oberg platform validation. I also wonder what the sustainability of the Oberg platform would look like if the more prudent industry standard oil price assumption of $25 to $30 oil price was used.

I wonder further if Dr. Oberg is inclined to revisit his costing calculations and give us a bit more disclosure and detail as to the assumptions and the workings of the economic model that was used. It could go a long way to rehabilitating the public’s confidence in his candidacy.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Dr. Oberg Says The Campaign Must Get Back to Being "Open, Honest and Accurate."

Today a reader sent me a copy of an "Open Letter to Albertans" from Dr. Oberg. In it he tries to move the focus of his fiasco away from himself. He also expresses his desire to "...get back to an open, honest and accurate discussion of campaign of ideas."

SPARE ME!

ALL the other candidates never left that kind of open, honest and accurate campaign discussion. Only Dr. Oberg decided to wallow in innuendo and unfounded accusations while he consciously calculated to recklessly savage the reputations of ALL the other candidates.

Only Dr. Oberg needs to get back to being open, honest in his discussions. But frankly Doctor, it is an offer that is too little and too late in my books. This "Open Letter" is a fatuous missive that is nothing more that damage control and pure spin. It is him just continuing to be misleading and misrepresentative about the facts and enormity of his own misconduct.

He again creates "facts" like the "offense" was done by government employees on taxpayers time. But he offers no proof. You are entitled to your own opinions Dr. Oberg but not your own facts.

Consider the silliness of the fact that he received the fax containing the "offensive" materials, from the Legislature. Was it sent - pray tell - during office hours? If so, ought that government employee, who he is so nobly protecting, be seen as guilty of doing political work on taxpayer time? When you are in a hole the best thing thing to do is quit digging Dr. Oberg.

"The silver-tongued devil has nothing to lose and is just shifting his share of the blame."
Kris Kristofferson

Here, for the record is what I received as the Oberg "Open Letter." Read it and make up your own minds if you think this is indicative of a man who has the quality of judgment and strength of character to be our leader and our Premier.

"Open Letter to Albertans from Lyle Oberg October 27, 2006"

Recently I publicly released part of a document that was prepared by senior staff members of two Alberta government ministers that both support the Jim Dinning campaign. My comments around this were twofold.

First, it was a conflict of interest for these people to undertake this work using taxpayers resources and dollars. Second, the document contained some very insulting references to rural Alberta.

I am sure that you have by now read the offensive lines.

I would like all Albertans to know a few things about why I chose to bring this issue forward, and why it is important to not simply dismiss it as innocent political chatter, as some people in the media have suggested.

In the words of one of the authors, "we are kind of political hacks…this is the kind of stuff we do for kicks." I would like to set the record straight. The people involved are not junior level "political hacks" as they have suggested. They head up the offices of two of the most important Alberta Ministries, Intergovernmental Affairs and Energy, and their salaries are paid for by Alberta taxpayers.

Some of the media in major cities have dismissed these comments, as Mr. Dinning’s advisers have suggested, saying ‘don’t worry’, and that this is nothing unusual. That is exactly the type of attitude that worried me about this evidence in the first place. In an Oberg government that type of misconduct will never be business as usual.

Perhaps some see nothing wrong in what was done, but I do not agree. Moreover, I suspect nobody endorses the disrespect evident in these pages. I ask you to support my campaign to bring this type of unacceptable behavior to an end.

"Let’s get back to an open, honest and accurate discussion of campaign of ideas."

Warmest regards,

Lyle Oberg
PC Leadership Candidate

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Wanton and Wanting Dr. Oberg.

Dr. Lyle Oberg has traded in his manufactured positioning of maverick candidate into a new more fitting role, that of a reckless and feckless plain old political hack.

There are lots of blogger and traditional media “show reviews” of his political theatre of the absurd. Oberg promotes a news conference with advanced billing to the media about “juicy stuff” “bloodletting” advising reporters to “bring a smock.” The orchestrated actual “event” turns out to be Oberg self-immolating in a gaudy display of crassness and character flaw.

He promises proof of misconduct in another candidate’s campaign using “sensitive information” from “anonymous sources.” Sadly as it turns out, his sources are not actually anonymous but people he knows, who work in the Legislature and are reported to be related to individuals in his campaign. In one day he transforms himself from a serious possibility for Premier of Alberta into a weapon of muted self destruction.

It seems he was not yet finished as he goes over-the-top with an Orwellian characterization of his actions saying “I chose principle, I chose protection of the individual…” One presumes he is referring to his so-called ‘anonymous sources’ as he states his personal concerned “for their jobs, their future and families.” This is the principled rationale of a man who would be Premier of us all? This is the justification he uses to wantonly cast irresponsible, unsubstantiated – and as it turns out, unfounded personal character aspersions toward every other candidate? Shame on you Dr. Oberg!

We are told there is a long shadow of suspicion and concern by colleagues about Dr. Oberg’s past portfolio performance and his “skeletons” comments merely brought things to a head. The first unsubstantiated “skeletons in closets” accusations towards his Caucus colleagues finally got him kicked out of Caucus. A Caucus to whom he now eagerly offers his "skills and talents" to be their leader. One hardly knows whether to laugh or cry!

Based on the Oberg hapless histrionics of yesterday we are at least assured the Oberg personal “skeleton” has a “bonehead.” We have seen first hand that he can be pithy without being substantial. Based on his “performance” one can’t tell if the good Doctor’s irreconcilable behaviour is preposterously post-modern or just plain bipolar! But now we know one thing for sure. He has shown that he lacks the mental and moral “stuff” to be leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta. That means he also lacks character and judgement to ever become Premier of Alberta.

Albertans must consider carefully our individual and collective futures. We must be especially particular of who we select to be PC Leader and, as a result, our provincial Premier. With potentials like Dr. Oberg "in play" participation in this leadership selection process is not an option. Be careful who you elect...every time!

Monday, October 23, 2006

What are the Most Important Policy Issues Facing the New PC Leader as Premier?

Policy Channel has decided to gather some data on what are the priority issues and directions Albertans want to see their next government take. We have designed a survey that will ask you to decide the most and least important issue from a varied set of social, economic and environmental issues facing Alberta today.

This will give the next leader/Premier (whomever that may be) some insight into what Albertans see as the most and least important issues and priorities to be tackled in the next short time before a general election is called.

This is not an opinion poll. It forces you to make hard choices, most of which you will not like, because most every issue is important. The issues is how important. You will have to make tradeoffs and determine what issues really drive your policy preferences and priorities. The point of the survey is that the new Progressive Conservative leader is also going to be Premier. He will need to get the Alberta ship of state off the sand bar it as been stuck on for the past few years and get on with governing. Easy to say but not easy to do if you do not have an inkling of what it is Albertans want done by their new Premier as top priorities.

The PC leadership is not an election so it is difficult to say the leadership results are a political mandate and a policy agenda. This survey will help identify and may even influence that policy agenda based on what Albertans say in the results.

This is web based so it is not scientific mostly because it lacks the built in randomness of polling models. However it has some validity because those who show up and take the time to do it are the kind of citizens who are likely to be opinion leaders, engaged and active in civic affairs with some well thought out opinions on issues. If that is you – please take a few moments and do the survey. You may be helping to set the political agenda for the next while at least.

Policy Channel will publish the survey results very week during the campaign and will show the trends and changes in opinions of those people who showed up. If some group wants to “invade” the site and try to skew the survey, the rest of us will get a sense of that and can respond. We can ignore the skewed results and risk that they may be given credibility by the next leader. Or we can “unskew” the results by encouraging others in our spheres of influence to get there opinions and choices reflected by taking the survey.

We also ask you to consider how likely it is or isn’t for you to recommend the candidates to someone. This is not asking how you would vote but to what degree you would recommend a candidate to someone else. Should be interesting how that unfolds as well.

Go to Policy Channel and find the survey in the top left corner of the home page.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Link to Garth Turner M.P.

I have added a link to the website of Garth Turner Independent M.P.
I think he is worth following given what is going on in power politics on both sides fo the border these days.

Be Careful Who You Elect

President George W. Bush recently signed a Bill called the Military Commissions Act that can (amongst other things) be used to dispense with Habeas Corpus. That is the right to be brought before a judge to determine the lawfulness of one's arrest. This is no longer the legal right in the USA for anyone the American government declares to be a threat under the label of "alien, undocumented immigrant or unlawful enemy combatant."

Free speech is a right of a freedom and democratic society that is oftern taken for granted and even abused on occassion but notwithstanding that it so very important to preserve and protect that right. Watch this video Olbermann to Bush: 'Your Words are Lies that Imperil us All" from MSNBC - not only for its chilling content but as an eloquent example of free speech in action.

Judging by some of the comments in the discussion forums on the Internet over the Militarty Commissions Act, it will not surprise me to start seeing 1960's style protests and marches over civil rights issues in America again. "Dubbya" may just have created his own Viet Nam by signing this Bill.

For any Canadians who may feel quietly smug and superior - don't. You either do not know or have forgotten the part of our history that reflects this kind of leadership and governance in our past. Ask yourself what you would do today if you were Maher Arar.

Considering the power we bestow on politicians when we elect them to positions of leadership or other high office PLEASE, for the sake of our freedoms, make yourself aware about the character of the candidates. Do not just focus on the hype and hyperbole of campaigning. Make your choices carefully and consciously. Your individual freedoms depend on it.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Whopper-mania

There is the practical reality that political candidates perpetually pursue media coverage and often under the mistaken belief that any news coverage is good coverage...so long as they spell your name correctly. The media has taken up the Dinning whopper story hook, line and sinker.

We also have the political landscape full of conspiracy game-theorists who lurk in the shadows and whisper "Mess-ages" in all too eager ears. Then there is the fact half the population has an IQ of under a 100 by definition and are willing to believe just about anything negative about someone with influence or power. Plus a half truth is often more damaging to a candidate than a full blown lie - because at least a lie can be disproved and will eventually disappear whereas a half truth has a seemingly eternal half-life.

We have seen the Dinning campaign determined to dispel the half truths and full blown lies about their candidates intentions, ideas, background and even his profession in a media feeding Whoppergate fashion.

So I was wondering in my own mischievous way, what if the other candidates were to try to garner media attention by fabricating their own whoppers about themselves. That would create the need for them "to clarify the misinformation" and the media would lap it up.

Sounds like a plan right? What might that look like - I asked myself? Lets have some fun! Nothing I have said here is true - although it may be factual - for which I guess I need to apologize for my bad spinmeistering.

What if the latest Dinning Dunning Myth Buster was:
"Jim Dinning is not a lawyer - neither is Michael Ritter."

Victor Doerksen confirms there is no evidence of intelligent design behind his campaign platform and his leadership bid is evolving and unraveling as it should.

Dr. Lyle Oberg says there is no truth to the allegations that he is suffering from sympathetic labour pains and states unequivocally that he never screwed a union - except maybe the ATA - but they were asking for it.

There is no truth to the rumour that Gary McPherson secretly wants to be Rick Hanson but there is growing evidence that Rick Hanson would like to be Gary McPherson.

The similarities between Rev. Jerry Falwell and Dr. Ted Morton are mere coincidence - really! Dr. Ted is much more like Rev. Pat Robertson - at least he wanted to be President.

Ed Stelmach has a secret passion for Ukrainian food and has been known to giggle in public, even when being taken seriously.

Mark Norris does not think the fact that he is first political incumbent in North America to lose his seat to a Muslim after 9-11 in a constituency with a large Jewish population means he can't gain the ordinary voters confidence in the rest of Alberta in order to become the Premier.

Dave Hancock has had to admit publicly to being a lawyer and with the arrogance that is so typical of that profession - he has refused to deny it or even explain why he is a lawyer.

I hope people will enjoy this post for the "entertainment" purposes I have intended; but that they can also see the danger in this stuff. It shows again why facts may be interesting they are almost irrelevant in the formation of opinions and impressions. It is how you frame the issues and how you activate values in the voter that makes the difference between winning and losing. People vote their values and beliefs - even those who are not voting are actually still expressing their values and beliefs, be they disdain or indifference. The far right in the USA has mastered this black art of contemporary politics very well and some Alberta candidates are well into it too.
I like what Duncan at Phendrana Drifts has said about myths and misdirections. Check his post out too. This whopper and conspiracy stuff is so powerfulbecasue it can be damaging to candidates and very dangerous to democracy. As Reagan said to Gorbachev "Of course I trust you, but I always like to verify what you have said." Good advice and a sound approach for citizens to take towards politics these days.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Except for Hancock and Stelmach....

Except for Dave Hancock and Ed Stelmach it seems every other candidate is someone that more and more people are becoming increasingly afraid of for whatever reasons. Some reasons are legit and some are fabricated. If you believe some of the commentary in the blogosphere about the so called Dinning 14 Whoppers – even the fabricated reasons were “fabricated.” The conspiracy goes that his supporters are doing this to divert attention from “other issues” they “presumably” don’t want to be exposed. Smoke, mirrors and pockets full of petty mumblers is mostly what I am seeing. Politics by misdirection and misinformation! Pathetic isn’t it!

Will anyone emerge from the campaign pack with personal character, qualities and values that actually gets us engaged in thinking about the future possibilities and potential of Alberta for the benefit of all Albertans? Instead we see the emergence of the not entirely unjustifiable fear, in some cases, of some candidates who are self aggrandizing power-mongers, or narrow minded ideologues, presumptive and assumptive obvious winners, or the simply hapless and hopeless. Only Hancock and Stelmach appear to be above all this and seem to personally grasp the true essence of the leadership role in a representative democracy – that is of being the servant leader.

We campaign and govern by the systemic discouraging of debate, dialogue and informed dissent. Just go to the newspapers tomorrow and visit Garth Turner’s blog and see what happens to free speech and democratic discourse in regimes of centralized top down message controlling mean spirited leadership. We centralize power in party leaders and their entourage of unelected, faceless and yet enormously powerful political advisors. For the sake of efficiency in power politics we forsake citizenship and representative democracy as a consequence.

I am tired of the hypocrisy and the systemic self serving side of politics. I want someone who aspires to leadership who will give me a reason to believe again…not naively or pseudo-intellectually – but rather a sincere hopeful belief that is brimming with enthusiasm, curiosity, authenticity and imagination. I don’t expect some super human capacity as a precondition of leadership. I expect humility and human decency as my precondition for leadership.

I want someone to lead Alberta with a view beyond the next election cycle. Some one who can listen to gather information and opinion and then synthesize the information to make it useful and accessible to me. I want them bright enough that they can know enough about an issue and can explain it in context. I want someone who knows how to be reflective, thoughtful and is able to comprehend and evaluate alternative inputs and then come up with useful knowledge and some workable ideas.

Then I want someone with the wisdom to make profoundly important choices – not perfect choices - but who will be able to pick an alternative with sound reasons and actually know why they make the choices they do. Then I want them to feel obligated to explain the choices and reasons behind them to me and, if necessary, take the time to try to convince me that they have done the right thing and for the right reasons. For me the right reason includes doing the most good for the most people with the least damage to the environment while enhancing our social cohesion as a province and a country.

Then they have to be forceful enough and able to push and pull the levers of government to create a plan to achieve the objectives and have the skills to actually execute the plan. Is that too much to expect? It appears to be – but it better not be. Seeing what Harper has wrought in 8 months as pro tem Prime Minister and looking at giving someone 2 years of virtually total control over Alberta before they have to face an election means we best take this PC leadership selection process seriously.

Finally, we desperately need to attract a better quality of person into politics and have them come to serve for better reasons than merely gaining power. To get that better quality person we all need to start treating our quality elected people much better. A little respect would go along way, but only for those who deserve it, obviously. A little more trust and the benefit of the doubt would be nice for who consistently work to earn our respect. That would be nice too. I remember as a lawyer, virtually every time the phone rang it was going to be a dispute or problem. It wears on you after a while. I never recall anybody ever saying to me “Gosh, what a great day I’m having, I thought I’d call my lawyer.” I expect politicians feel much the same way.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Dunning of Dinning

I find the dirty tricks and misinformation campaigns the most difficult part of politics. Jim Dinning is taking the offence about some alleged misinformation about his intentions and “facts” about him that he says are false. The usual political consultant “wisdom” about such things is they ought not be repeated because doing so merely reinforces the original negative message and impressions.

The textbook example was the allegations about Richard Nixon being a “crook” and his numerous protestations to the contrary saying “I am not a crook” served only to add to the doubts in the public’s mind about his being fit to govern. In the end, with Watergate, he turned out to be a crook. The collective wisdom (or pooled ignorance) ever since is for the candidate not to repeat the remarks or the allegations because it merely serve to reinforce the original negative impressions…but that is what Jim is doing here and the media, including this Blog, is potentially simply reinforcing the negative story.

It comes down to what messages stick with the busy disengaged or the only partially engaged public from such “news” and “allegations.” We seem to hook on to bad news and remember it – even if we only vaguely recall what it was about - but we do seem to "remember" that it was negative – and that is the problem.

The difficulty is how our minds work and the kind of “attention” we pay in our overly mediated world. When you are told “do not think of a white horse” what image comes into your mind? A white horse, of course! When that “message” gets repeated to us again and again, especially when we are not sufficiently engaged in the message or concerned much about its meaning, we get our original impressions reinforced. We seem to remember that the issue was negative more than we “hear” the correction or the rebuttal. By the candidate repeating the message in rebuttal or in a correction, the theory is the original negative message is what gets reinforced in the public mind and not the correction. That is why correction and apologies in the media are nice to have but almost totally ineffectual in changing the original incorrect perception as to the “facts.”

The same kind of thing happened in 1992 leadership race on the Betkowski and Klein campaigns. There were whispered allegations throughout the countryside that if Betkowski won she would be shutting down rural hospitals. It was widely promoted and vigorously denied but the damage was done. Rural Albertans started to fear what would happen to them if the province were run by, what some called, “that uppity educated city woman.” Ouch! Ironically that fear was not unfounded because that is exactly what Klein did do to many rural hospitals once he was in power.

There were many unsubstantiated claims by anonymous callers that Klein was guilty of spousal abuse. I know, I took many of the calls while working on the Betkowski campaign. None of these callers would give me their names, their lawyer’s name or would commit to swearing an affidavit to evidence their allegations. Each of them wanted me to be reassured however they were honest and forthcoming folks just trying to do the right thing. Such is the downside of politics. I know that Premier Klien is hurt by those allegations even today.

So in this context Jim Dinning is posting rebuttals and corrections about incorrect allegations on his website and the media are writing stories about the “facts” and his responses. I wonder if the times and people have changed since the days of Richard Nixon or is Dinning’s approach merely reinforcing the negative impressions and not effectively correcting the record.

Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t. Damned politics.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

So You Think You Know Canada Eh!

Here is some Sunday night silliness for you amusement and perhaps chagrin...I suffered from both feelings after taking the quiz because my score was embarassingly low. I will not chastise any comments that are Ananymous regarding this post or the quiz - honestly... really...I mean that! Because I will not tell you my score - I can hardly complain if you tell me how you did and do not what your identity known.

Thanks to the Globe and Mail for this - it is almost enough to make up for my conspiracy theory when they published the Hancock Platform story in the rest of Canada but not in the Alberta edition.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Average Leaders Give Us Easy Answers - Great Leaders Invite Us to Consider Better Questions

Just looked at the GrassRootsAvenger blog comments on the Hancock policy platform. He/She bemoans the fact Hancock poses questions and presumably does not offer enough answers. Fair enough and to the Avengers credit, some comments are posted to some of the questions they have on the Hancock policy. I would like to respond from my perspective on the answers...and I will check with Dave Hancock to see if his positions are different and report back if necessary.

Expanding school breakfast and lunch programs wherever needed; Is this a role for the provincial government?

Yes! Children are the responsibility of parents first and then each and every Albertan, individually and collectively where needed. Where a child is not able to realize their potential or is in danger or is hungry - we as a society ought to be helping to fix the problem...short term and long term. Feeding children in need is a no-brainer! If kids are not ready to learn and grow into healthy, productive, confident and self-reliant citizens because they are hungry, or scared, in need or at risk for whatever reason...society needs to step up to the plate. That, in part, is why we have government!

Implementing strategy to create 60,000 new post-secondary learning spaces; And just how much is this going to cost?

Plenty and worth every dollar! Education is the key to a prosperous productive and cohesive society especially in the knowledge based, technologically driven globalized reality of today. To not maximize our greatest assets - our human capacity is not just short sighted...it is stupid! Besides this is already official GOA policy - but like so many such "decision" of recent - it is not being implemented. Investment - the long view and strategic planning is what this is all about. The Alberta Republicans seem to know the cost of everything and the value of not very much.

Discontinuing Alberta Health Care Premiums and offering tax incentives for healthy lifestyle choices; Like Dinning's proposed tax on junkfood?
Not really! Dinning's junkfood tax is not likely to change much of the behaviours of those who are being harmed by poor nutrition - the poor! His tax is actually going to penalize and hurt poorer people disproportionately because research shows they are more likely to buy cheap, convenient but unhealthy fast food. Hancock is suggesting an incentive system to reward positive changes in behaviours that will reduce demands on the health care system. Fresh carrots not stale sticks!

Instituting a province wide ban on smoking in all public places; What about personal freedom?
What about personal freedom -it is not absolute. It is proven that your second hand smoke puts my life in danger. Smoke on your own property and not where children are around either. Consider it your "personal property" right to kill yourself on your own property and on your own time. By the way I will be paying your health care costs - even heroic ineffective interventions to extend your life through technology with my tax dollars to keep you alive. I will also be paying for your cancer treatments all because you lack the personal responsibility to take care of yourself. Thx a bunch! What about my personal freedom to chose not to pay for your irresponsible behaviour? Why not take individual responsibility here. You smoke you pay your own health costs. That is some two tier medicine that I could "live" with but will gladly forfeit the tax savings for a universal system - even if smokers are abusing it.

Instituting a government-run liability program for the volunteer sector; Whoa! Doesn't this mean taking on some huge potential liability...Isn't this expanding the role of government further into the private realm?

Yes and yes! If we do not support volunteer organizations to ensure safety and security of the people they serve - often our most vulnerable citizens. We neet to protect the volunteers too from abuse, unfounded litigation or allegations. Otherwise they will disappear along with the entire not-for-profit sector. Then government will end up hiring staff to do the work - because the issues and problems will not go away. Government replacement programs will be much more expensive and less likely to get optimal results as well. The private sector insurers are boosting rates in the face of greater perceived risks because the volunteer sector cannot afford to screen volunteers now. We are seeing more claims so the solution is more and better screening, more training and a backstop on liability insurance. We do co-insurance for workers compensation - why not the not-for-profit and voluntary sector?

The responses from The Grassroots Avenger are classic old-style shallow short term and narrow fiscal conservative thinking about reducing taxes and government's role. To them it is all about the costs and rarely about the value of effective outcomes. PROGRESSIVE conservatives see both sides - value for tax money and a postive role for government to step in but only where individuals and markets can't do the job.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Politics and the 18-35 Age Group

Canada West Foundation is about to release a report on the political attitudes of western Canadians 18-35 year olds. The report surveyed 2000 people across the west and is being released on Thursday October 19.

I have had a chance to read an advance copy and can tell you it dispels some myths about youth voting. It also confirms some issues and values preference differences between this group and the dominant over 35 age sector.

One eye-popping finding is that Under 35s also do not relate to political parties or election campaigns. What would it take to get them to participate? We know people do not vote on issues as much as their sense of identity. After all politicians in power do an awful lot in "our names" justifing actions in term of what they believe their constituents are telling them.

I wonder if the 18-35 people do show up and participate in the PC leadership which candidate resonates with them the most? Would it be Norris the Young? Oberg the Maverick? Morton the Academic Theo-con? Dinning the Destined? Hancock the Progressive? Stelmach's Integrity? McPherson's Courage? Doerksen the Nondescript?

Here are some report highlights provided by the Canada West Foundation with the advanced copy I am sure I can share:

Identity: Contrary to stereotype, under 35s are more likely to describe themselves as centrists than as left-leaning.

National Unity: Under 35s are quite confident that Canada will remain united in 20 years, but register high levels of indifference toward Quebec separation.

Attitudes Toward Canadian Democracy: Under 35s report a moderate level of interest in politics. The vast majority feels an obligation to vote, and many see volunteering in their community as an obligation.

Under 35 Public Policy: While many “mainstream” policy issues (such as health care) are important to under 35s, they are also concerned about a number of issues that receive relatively less attention, including poverty, post-secondary education, and international issues. There are a number of important policy priority differences between under 35s and over 35s, particularly with respect to international issues.

A healthy vibrant democracy depends on citizen participation. It is not good that this segment of our society does not relate their citizenship in terms of political parties and election campaigns.

Not their fault - parties have to be more open and relevant and elections have to be more meaningful and less market positioning of the candidates as a mediocre yet acceptable product. No inspiring leadership to be found there.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

This "Poll" Is Too Much Fun - and Dangerous!

I omitted in my haste this afternoon to detail some more glaring error in process and appraoch in this PGIB "poll." They took 3 weeks to get 600 replies but did not break them down to see if they reflected the demographic characteristics of the PC Party because the information emerging is that they used an internal list of PC Party members that was "at least one year old." Double Duh!

They took 50% of the input from South and Central Alberta and 50% split equaly between Edmonton and Calgary - ignoring the north entirely and totally unrelated to the true geographical distribution of the PC Party membership and based solely on their "old" list of PC Party members.

BUT without so much as offering a blush of embarrassment they make an unsubstantiated representation as to how they say PC Party members are thinking about voting for the leadership. That offers no evidence at all as to what the real PC Party current membership and pending new membership is thinking. The real question Albertans have to ask themselves about this PGIB "poll" is "What were they thinking?"

Polls can suffer from a serious lack of crediblity even when then are done by seasoned professionals. These PGIB "poll" sponsors are not professionals - they are rank amateurs and pranksters...perhaps with a potential to be big time political dirty tricksters. They have the profile don't you think?

As citizens we all need to keep our guards up aginst these kinds of tactics and their perpetrators .

Dr Morton's people are now seemingly to be slip slidin' away from this poll result and I would advise form any"endorsement" of the PGIB organzation and its leadership. Good idea to find some real distance from these guys Doctor Morton!

Excuse Me While I Piss on this Poll

The PGIB sent me their Leadership Poll news release and results breakdown. This is where they are saying it is a three horse race from a “PIGB poll of 600 Alberta PC Party members…over a three week period in Calgary, Edmonton, Central and Southern Alberta.” The other fact they tout is this is a poll where PC Party members only were being polled. That is a good thing - but they did it so badly they destroy any data supported evidence for their conclusion. They may be right but this "poll" is no proof of it. Duh!

There are some serious credibility problems with these poll results, some of which have already been pointed out, like the randomness of the inputs with no northern Alberta input, how can you be conclusive? The other irony is they say in the news release their poll is “statistically significant at 19 times out of 20” but fail to mention the margin error. Duh!

Statistics, questionnaire design, data collection and results analysis is part art and part science but it is a professional activity that “ought not to be tried at home” by amateurs, especially amateurs with an agenda! People like the PGIB ought not to be doing this because it is misleading and pure political misdirection unless they are not serious about their credibility as an organization’s reputation involved in political lobbying – apparently one of their core activities. Duh!

I would be interested in seeing where they got the list of names came from to do the PGIB survey. If it was names only from their own membership list (which I suspect) that also taints the results, given that they are an Alliance based, social conservative organization that would not therefore reach the full range of Progressive Conservative members. It also excludes those Albertans who intend to become PC Party members to participate in the Leadership. These people are not represented in their data inputs either. Duh!

This is at best described as a crude political tactic or cheap trickery. It is not a poll. If it uses PGIB members who say they are also PC Party members but that is validated through the PC Party membership list the premise of their survey is even more unfounded. The Undecided and refused to answer numbers are very high too and are in themselves sufficient to challenge the conclusion they reached even if the methodology itself was not so amateurish...which it is. Duh!

Thirdly they asked the wrong question: “Are you currently a member of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party?” That question is insufficient because it ignores those who intend to buy memberships between now and Dec 2 in the one person one vote system. And how come it took 3 weeks to gather the data? Do they not think opinions vary dramatically over such a long data collection period and the results are invalid as a result? Or am I giving this charade too much credit. Duh!

This is a very laughable and sad situation at the same time. Emmanuel Kant is giggling in his grave where people like Chandler, a poster boy for the far right, proving to be practically post modern personal examples out to prove that their political ends is justifiable using whatever means necessary - all in the name of winning and at all costs.

This is a dramatic example of the kind of society and polity we will have in Alberta if either Oberg or Morton gets to govern. What kind of Alberta will it be with these kind of people and organizations setting the agenda and providing the "values" perspectives about the future of Alberta.

Thx Craig Chandler and the PBIB for this “disclosure.” To the rest of us - Be Afraid! Be Very Afraid!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

New Poll of PC Members Sees Three-Way Tie

Apparently a new Poll is out - can't track it down yet but QR77 Radio in Calgary is commenting on it:

CALGARY/AM770CHQR - A Calgary-based business and taxpayer group has released results of a survey showing a virtual three way tie for the lead in the Alberta Tory leadership race.The Progressive Group for Independent Business shows Lyle Oberg and Ted Morton each with 17 percent support among Tory party members who plan to vote in the election.Jim Dinning is close behind at 16 per cent.The PGIB says it did its own survey out of frustration that other surveys polled Albertans who were not tory party members or even planning to vote in the leadership race.

This group is a right wing business/lobbying organization run by Craig Chandler former federal Conservative leadership candidate with a strong social conservative personal perspective. So small surprise they "find" Morton in the lead of a tight 3 way race. What is apparently good about this poll is it asks if you are a party member or intend to become one. It is those people who will count in the end and make the real difference in the final results.

Wonder how many were undecided in the PGIB poll. That undecided number has been growing with each new poll and was high as 40% in the recent Leger Poll. The front runners support has been fallling off from the early September polls but the pack in the back have not been breaking out either.

Once I get the detailed results, the questions and the methodology I will share it with you.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Eats Shoots and Leaves

Got an email today from a person I know and respect and presume is working on the Dinning campaign. She wanted to clarify the disclosure commitment from Dinning and noting the punctuation error in the Globe piece I quoted. The Globe quote on Dinning I referenced was:

"He has said his campaign will voluntarily follow provincial election rules, and disclose all donors after the election. Mr. Dinning's campaign also will not accept anonymous donations or money from any individual or corporation that totals more than $30,000."

The email clarification stated:

"Hey, cute interpretation of the reporter’s punctuation or lack thereof. For the record, it’s no donations over 30K. And no anonymous donations. So we’ll publish your name even if you keep that penny and only give $29,999.99."

If one inserted a COMMA in the Globe quote after the word donations you get an entirely different meaning from the Globe story and the one that I expect Dinning intended. The second sentence in the quote would then read "Mr. Dinning's campaign also will not accept anonymous donations, or money from any individual or corporation that totals more than $30,000."

Reminds me of the great example that I like to use from time to time, mostly to make a communications point. Do you agree with the statment "A woman without her man is nothing." Not many agree and no women in my experience . Now do you agree with the statement "A woman: without her man is nothing." Almost unanimous female agreement in my experience. Minor punctuation change big meaning shift.

Fun eh? Dangerous too! Just ask any political speech writer.

Nondisclosure is a Betrayal of the Public's Trust

I have just had my fears about who is behind the Ted Morton Campaign confirmed. Today's Globe and Mail story has the telling quote that donor information is just too strategic to let people know about. Here is what a Morton campaign organizer is reported to have said:

“It's a strategic thing. That gives too much away,” Sam Armstrong, a campaign organizer for leadership hopeful Ted Morton, explained when asked why his camp has decided that it won't disclose names of contributors.

Obviously we will not get to know the Morton donors and ignorance is not bliss...especially in this case. My instincts tell me he is afraid to reveal his donors because they are an array of extremists groups that would scare us away from him. Remember how "scary" Harper was in the 2004 election when the religious far right was visible and vocal in supporting him? They kept quiet in the 2006 election and Harper was less scary. Harper became the temporary PM but his revival of the CPC anti social agenda and recent mean spriited grant cutting is starting to scare us all over again.

To be fair, Morton is not the only concern. I think we citizens have cause for concern about every candidate and the facts about their campaign contributors. Since there are no rules it is a chance for some candidates to raise the ethical bar of disclosure and challange the others to do the same.

We have to wonder if Dinning has too much money ($3m estimated and not denied) and is it collected from a few powerful forces so that he can effectively buy the leadership. Here is what the G&M says about Dinning's donors:

"He has said his campaign will voluntarily follow provincial election rules, and disclose all donors after the election. Mr. Dinning's campaign also will not accept anonymous donations or money from any individual or corporation that totals more than $30,000."

That $30K plus level of anonymity does not reassure me. So for a kicker of $29,999.99 I can stay off the radar screen. Can my kids and numbered companies under my control do the same thing? Too Volpe-esque for my liking. Just because you can do something clever to support Jim does not mean you ought to do it. That reliance on elites is the nature of the uncertainty about how Dinning will govern - for the benefit of the anonymous elites or the rest of us schmucks.

Oberg is already over the ethical line - just not the legal line - with his cozy "long term relationship" with certain trade union bosses and their top down membership "giveaway" tactics. That says everything we need to know about how he will govern. Top down, special deals for friends of long term relationships and what ever means that are available but only to the ends that Oberg personally identifies. Kind of like George W Bush don't you think? I can't help but wonder who will be the "Alberta Haliburton" - overcharging us for infrastructure projects with an exclusive inside "bidding" track in an Oberg government.

Norris' disclosure underscored fears of is he his "own" man or is he an "owned" by the 100 or so "clients" cum donors who are "buying" Norris' "consulting services." Who will he be "working for" as Premier - us or them? We citizens should not have to be asking ourselves that question! Again doing something indirectly you can't do directly shows a penchant for situational ethics - a real shortcoming and brings into question about how he would govern.

Others are very late into the game like Stelmach and Hancock because they played by the rules and timing that Premier Klein set out. That respect for the Party and the Klein leadership has hurt them and now they have to play catch up in the campaign fund raising function. That is no excuse however for not disclosing donors!

Others are either vanity candidates or issues based with no intention of winning just positioning or proselytizing. Who supports them dollar-wise is of less interest but the duty to disclosure demands are still the same.

Disclosure is more than information. It goes to the very character of the candidates. I think those who deny to disclose, display disrespect for the duty to disclose by being obtuse about it or those who are simply too naive about the consequences all need to feared as leadership hopefuls.
Nondisclosue is not justified as just clever politics and acceptable because it is simply playing by the nonexistant "rules." It is a betrayal of the public's trust and ought to be enough to disqualify anyone as a serious candidate worthy of such high office.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Thank You - Arts on the Avenue

This is Thanksgiving so you will not be surprised that you will not be reading my usual politically oriented post.

We Albertans live abundant lives, not all of us but that is true for most of us. We have lots to be thankful for. Yesterday I had little time to reflect on Thanksgiving but I did on this Sunday morning. I have all of the ususal thoughts of giving thanks but yesterday was special and filled me with feelings of hope and optimism - as well as for giving thanks.

Yesterday in a small part of Edmonton along 118 Ave (“The Ave”), bordering the north side of the city core, a minor miracle happened. A locally produced one day eclectic arts festival happened…Arts on the Avenue. It brought together dancers, painters actors, musicians and artisans to show their talents and to make a statement. That statement was about the rejuvenation of a community that has, euphemistically speaking; “seen better days.”

There is an abundance of Cultural Creatives that live in The Ave area. They were joined by other artists who have recently befriended The Ave and who also caught the spirit of the place - especially yesterday. They came from around the city with their friends and families and spent the day to enjoy, to perform, to participate and to celebrate. What they created was a connection amongst themselves and they reaffirmed the sense of community on The Ave. What they enabled, experienced and expressed was the creative power of art and culture to renew the sense of hope in a community.

I was there for the day as part of our work at Cambridge Strategies Inc. for the City of Edmonton on the revitalization of the 118 Ave from NAIT to Northlands. It felt so much like my experience in the early days of The Fringe…I was there too. I remember well the feeling in Old Strathcona and on Whyte Avenue at the time of Alberta’s 75th Anniversary celebrations. We enabled a few actors, on very short notice, to essentially perform audition pieces to small audiences. We knew then “we were really on to something.” That early effort quickly morphed into the Edmonton International Fringe Festival. That event grew and then morphed into a North American wide Fringe Festival movement that thrives today.

I felt that feeling that “we are really on to something” again yesterday at Arts on the Avenue. Yesterday was authentic and eclectic with a well produced and very professional line up of talent. In that way it was much more than the early Fringe days. It was genuine, energetic and unpretentious and just brimming with talent and potential. In that way it was totally aligned with the early Fringe Festival days.

Volunteers are tough to find in the overly committed and complex life styles we seem to live these days. But they came out of there homes yesterday and did all the Joe Jobs with a smile and got caught up in the sense of what was happening. That added to the rays of hope that the Arts on the Avenue brought to all those who worked on it so hard, and against such odds, to make this happen.

So on a day that started out cold and grey and drizzling, that evolved, emerging as a sunny crisp fall afternoon. It ended with a clear night sky and a full moon. Everyone gathered around a huge bon fire to warm the body. They were good people working together and accomplishing much that warmed the heart. To warm the soul they enjoyed an outdoor concert by Captain Tractor, who merely had to walk across the neighbourhood park to perform.

There is meaning here. The people who made this event happen are tired today and there is still clean up and lots to do. But they know that yesterday was the start of something good. Something very positive happened yesterday on 118 Avenue. Something that augers well for the future of The Ave and the neighbouring communities as a place to work, live and raise a family. They too are “really on to something!” Thanks to the people of Arts on the Avenue for letting me be part of it.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Oberg's Style - Over Promise and Under Deliver

The recent editorial in the University of Calgary student newspaper The Gauntlet captures the essence of Oberg's unilateral power-based governance style. He is notorious - no pun intended - at over promising and under delivering. Be it resolving the teacher's strike, dealing with the pension issues, twinning hiway 63 to Fort Mc or the preemptive announcement of the misguided Veterinary School at the U of C. The list is virtually endless if you want to do the research.

Alberta has been sending students to Saskatchewan's Vet School for years, helping to keep it viable in part. If there was a new approach needed - why would we not help the U of S do it rather than use our arrogant Alberta bucks to build our own only to beat up on them? The crass personality politics of Dr. Oberg is the answer.

So the great quote from the Gauntlet that captures the governing character of Oberg is:

The original announcement for the vet school came in 2004, during a high-publicity press conference at the Calgary Zoo from then-learning minister Lyle Oberg. The announcement, like so many since, was accompanied by a pledge that funding would be committed so the faculty could open on time. Obviously, it didn't and it won't.

Why? Because there is no glory for a Minister like Oberg in collaboration or consulting colleagues. He made a big promise for the U of C school knowing he could not deliver because he lacked budget approval and the Priorities support from the government. More of the reasons why the Caucus canned him....now he thinks he could lead the same Caucus as their leader? That tells me he is delusional at best.

If he did win on the 1 person 1 vote model, my experience says he would be a brutal ideological dictator if he ever became Premier.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Oberg "Sells" Himself

You gotta love Dr. Oberg’s view of democracy as captured in the cryptic comments of the “Benevolent Dictator” at Renewing the One Party State site. His posting says it all. “Dr. Oberg, it is one thing to lose and election it is another to lose your honour in the process.” The Edmonton Journal story headline captures the essence “Union Oberg backers buying memberships.”

The brain trust at the Alberta Building Trades Council has decided that as “Union Bosses for Oberg” they know best how their members should vote and are reported to be prepared to prepay for $10,000.00 of “free” PC party memberships for union members and have even hired staff to process the program. Gotta admire the efficiency of it all – don’t you?

What is the message here? Suspend your citizenship and do as you are told as a union member! “We a putting up the Five Bucks for you – and therefore you will vote Oberg.” What evidence supports the reports that the Union Boss is saying "Oberg…has been onside with the issues?” Do you think teachers and parents of students would agree?

Don’t ask why this top down directive to suspend independent thought and citizenship is happening. We are told why. The reason is clearly stated in the Journal story as because of someone’s “long standing relationship” with Dr. Oberg.

Who exactly is it that enjoys this “long standing relationship” with the good Doctor, and what is it based on - pray tell! What were the deals and the dealings that set up this “long standing relationship?” Ought we to be looking for “skeletons” as part of our questioning or is that too harsh?

Do the union bosses actually believe that individual members will do as they are told with a one person one vote secret ballot system? Are individual union members pleased that their funds are being spent in this way? Is it clear what benefits they will be getting if they play along in support of this “long standing relationship?”

Since we are selecting a Premier for the entire province as a consequence of this PC leadership campaign, is it unreasonable for the rest of us to ask what promises and preferences are being proffered to whom in exchange for what because of such an "investment" in the Oberg campaign?

I have no problem with groups getting organized to educate and engage members, networks and their spheres of influence and encouraging individual Albertans participation as citizens. What these “players” are doing however is nowhere close to passing the “sniff test” but it is within the financial “rules” of the game, such as they are.

So then it ought to be open to the rest of us to be free to inquire as to surrounding facts and get clarity on some details. We ought to feel free to pass some judgement about the motivation and appropriateness of this approach and its impact on an open and transparent democratic participation process (sic). Is there a "cost" if anyone steps out of line and does not pick up a "free" membership card? What is the consequence if someone steps over the line and openly supports someone other than the "anointed Oberg?"

Are we to surmise from this that we now know what Dr. Oberg’s wholesale price for access to him will be as Premier? Will this be the ante needed to get Oberg interest and engagement- the $10K range – or is that an early-bird special for this group only?

We Albertans need to think long and hard about this, especially the individual members of the various unions who make up the Alberta Building Trades Council. Do we want a PC Party leader and Premier of this province who is only interested in obeying the letter of the law and could give a damn about the spirit of it? Is that the kind society and leadership we want? If so, feel “free” to pick up your “free” membership and forget about the cost to your freedoms of thought, expression and perhaps even of association.

As Dave Hancock’s campaign slogan says, its Your Values, Your Alberta and Your Choice!

A Globe and Mail Conspiracy?

I am not big on conspiracy theories. However sometimes you gotta wonder. I got a Google Search result late last night on the Globe and Mail story on the Hancock Policy Platform Launch yesterday.

This morning I get emails from across the country from friends and clients on the great platform launch and the quality of the media coverage - in particular the reference to the Globe and Mail Hancock piece. I go to my "ALBERTA EDITION," faithfully delivered to my door in Edmonton as usual - and the story is not there!

"What gives," I ask myself? How could the rest of Canada be reading about Hancock's positions and policies as a candidate for PC Leadership and Premier of the province and Albertans not be given the story?

Why is it people, outside of Alberta, who can't even participate in this election - except to give money to Dinning and Morton - get to read about the Hancock Platform and positions YET Albertans who can participate are not even given access to the story in the "Alberta Edition." Am I naive in presuming an Alberta Edition is an Alberta focus from "Canada's National Newspaper?"

Conspiracy? You can draw your own conclusions. But if you are interested in the story - here it is! I think it is a pretty good story.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hancock's Policy Platform is Out!

So the Hancock Platform is out and he has a new updated website. Same address http://www.davehancock.ca/ but a new look and feel and more content. All the platform content is there and video of his speeches will be up tonight sometime. Hancock’s positioning is education, environment and innovation.

He is personally the PROGRESSIVE conservative candidate and hugely differentiated from Oberg and Morton in that regard. He has the most party, political and policy depth of any candidate given his 35 years experience starting out as a youth organizer and volunteer, to party president to politician. Hancock has seen it all. And has done it all.

He is a progressive because he believes that government has a positive role in bettering people’s lives “regardless of situation or circumstance.” He is conservative because he knows the responsibility to get value for taxpayer dollars. Conservation values underscore his sense of the environment. He is big on individual responsibility – also part of his conservative nature.

His environment focus is about enhanced stewardship and conservation. His innovation focus is about a diversified value added technologically strong competative economy. His education focus is about a competent and adaptive learning society. He is big on putting more back into Alberta than we take out – for the benefit of today and future generations. He sees the economy and the environment as interrelated and integrated not mutually exclusive competing interests.

His progressive and conservative focus is on enabling self reliant confident people who are able to take care of themselves, their families and to contribute to their community. Dave is big on values like caring, fairness, community, diversity and inclusiveness. He said in his platform speech: "Alberta has been good to us. It is time we were good to Alberta."

He takes a big picture, long term, strategic approach in his governing style and he is definitely future focused. He bemoans the excessive time spend by government of late, admiring the end of debt and deficit. He says “Alberta has been moving ahead by looking in the rear view mirror…and not…looking towards the future nearly enough.”

The consequences have been a lack of attention to social and infrastructure deficits. He is emphatic – contrary to Klein’s recent declarations - there is a plan. He said he knows there is a plan - because he wrote it…the 20 Strategic Plan for Alberta to be exact.

The government has been on cruise control so long they did not seem care where they were going, how much “gas” it was taking - or wasting - to get "there." The people in political control have spent the last 7 or 8 years – since the debt dragon was actually destroyed – just basking in their past glory.

They we disinterested in looking down the road - and when they did – their attention did not stretch much past the hood ornament. They were disengaged and unconcerned that our destination was unclear – and that the journey seemed so unintentional.

And who cared if we were even on the right road? Does it matter if we don’t have a clear destination? Success for government was to stay between the ditches. That’s all! And that has had damaging affects on optimizing Alberta’s future. That "lazy - faire" attitude is what caused Premier Klein to get such tepid party support at the convention last April 1.

Education the environment and innovation – make for an interesting politician to my mind. Hancock is smart but he is also a wise man with real life experiences. He has superior character qualities and proven capabilities. He is not your media darling or your power broker political player. He actually believes in the concept of leader- servant. Would be a refreshing change…no doubt that we need a change.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Canada Day Musing on the Consent To Be Governed

In light of the previous Post on the CPC nomination going to Court, I thought this piece I wrote on Canada Day 2004 for The Policy Channel has some context to bring to the stuff that is still ticking me off about politics.

CONSENT TO BE GOVERNED July 1, 2004

A few years ago I found myself at a Montreal crosswalk waiting for the light to change. Former Prime Minister Trudeau was beside me. We were headed the same direction, and as a westerner that irony was not lost on me. I opened a conversation on the weather. For the next few blocks we had a most animated, engaging and wide-ranging chat on many matters Canadian. We shared observations, insights, understandings and our different perspective as we ambled down the street and through the topics. Eventually our courses diverted but before we parted he turned to me, and asked "Should I know you?" My reply was with a wry smile: "Yes you should, I am a citizen." With a twinkle in his eye he smiled and said, "Yes, I suppose I should."

On Canada Day this Trudeau moment came back to me, reaffirming my expectations the political system ought to be working for citizens, not the other way around. The politicians should know more about real issues, not through obscure theory or marketing manipulation. Instead voters seem to be mere target markets in a shallow competition between various party/leadership brands. Through voting we actually decide to delegate a significant role over many important parts of our lives. This delegation of authority, through the ballot box, is the basic democratic expression of a citizen's decision to give one's consent to be governed.

The June 28th (2004) minority government election results were very much an expression of the collective mood of Canadians. We sent a clear message to our governors about how we felt about all partisan offerings. Many citizens knew the political system was taking us for granted. In choosing a strong minority government we have effectively reserved, for now, our consent to be governed. We were angry at the Liberals for indifference and arrogance and wanted to punish them. We wanted to cautiously encourage the "New" Conservatives but were not disposed to give them real power until we knew more about them. The NDP were more interesting and engaging this election but were not yet ready for prime time. The Bloc was getting a free ride on anti-Liberal sentiments in Quebec. The Greens were getting serious attention on merit as well as being a safe place to park a protest vote. This election results actually gave the Green Party a seat at the "big kid's political table" and some serious sympathy over their exclusion from the television debates.

The engaged voter was volatile, angry and, in the end, pragmatic. Politicians and parties of all persuasions had long ago lost the citizen's benefit of the doubt. This election accentuated a prevailing, growing and serious skepticism that our governors were no longer acting in the best interest of the citizens. Leaders, parties and politicians, of all stripes, were losing our trust.

The minority government was our collective response to these predominantly pessimistic perceptions. Many of our other institutions have also been testing our patience and breaching our public trust as well. There seems to be a never ending series of scandal involving deceit, manipulation, abuse and blatant lies. Such concerns involve too many of our leaders, our corporations, our churches and even the media. Institutional malfeasance is a growing concern amongst engaged, thinking and voting citizen.

Perhaps this election we were ready to take it out on our politicians and to make them the medium to vent our resentment about such abuses. Who said politics was fair?For many the ballot question was not who to vote for but rather who to vote against. The negative, inappropriately personal snipping and small-minded nasty campaigns of all the leading parties turned us off. The superfluity of polling results, mostly with statistically insignificant distinctions became a dominant but meaningless media story. Other media preoccupations were centered on what party strategy was working, or not, and what "gaffes" were being made.

Traction and momentum are important to campaigns but not to Canadians looking for leadership and a vision for the future. Little of this campaign focused on the big issues facing Canada or Canadians. When it did, it perpetuated negativity and mostly offered fear factor rhetoric. No campaign took, or had the time, to explain their policy ideas or to clarify their platform positions. The consequence was an intentional minority government.

Canadians have spoken clearly about their political expectations. We want more collaboration and cooperation from and amongst our all of our democratic institutions. With this minority we have given all of the parties a provisional chance to work more effectively together to re-earn our trust and respect. We expect them to find creative ways to work out policy differences, to do so more amicably and in a broader public interest. Every party needs to think very carefully before taking any action or inaction that would result in Canadians going back to the polls too soon.

Canadians are clearly not in a mood to be ignored, trifled with or manipulated. Remember, we are expecting you to govern us with a collective wisdom, not with a pooled ignorance.

Damnable Activist Judges

Can't you just hear the muttering..."Damnable activist Judges" going about interfering with the "divine right" of certain Conservative Party of Canada candidates, like Rob (Mandala was a Terrorist) Anders. He has been taken to Court in Calgary by a group of his own party members who have alleged he improperly engineered an "acclamation" of his recent constituency nomination. How does this happen in a Party that is serious about governing the entire country? Why hasn't the process been revisited? Surely Anders is confident he can win.......again!

Why is our democracy under such threats by the very people we are electing? We entrust them to make choices for us about how we not only sustain but advance a fair, just, equitable, open, progressive, respectful society. The CPCs seemingly can't even do that within their own ranks. Why should we entrust them to do it for the full spectrum and range of Canadians for the whole country? Prime Minister Harper - please put a stop to this insanity within your own Party!

We definitely and desperately need a better quality of person in political and public life. Where are the citizens with wisdom, compassion and character who are prepared to enter public political life to serve the greater good...not just their friends and their own self interest? Given the general crap they have to take, little wonder we do not see such people coming forward.

We get the government we deserve, but do we deserve this?

Hancock's Policy Platform Release

Dave Hancock is going to announce his Policy Platform Oct 4...at NorQuest College in Edmonton in the morning and at his Calgary Campaign Office in the afternoon.

Stay tuned for details.

"If God Were Voting Who Would He Put In Power?"

Daveberta is giving us access to some background on how the religous right is getting organized for the Morton PC leadership bid. Dr. Morton's television interview is an hour long so be prepared to invest a bit of time if you follow the Daveberta link. Dr. Morton makes some good points on policy - mostly in a neo-con context. The Miracle Channel interviewer tells us more about how this interest group is thinking, what are their core political issues and he explains clearly why they should become involved in the PC Leadership Campaign.

Will the Church be the State in a Dr. Morton lead Alberta?
More hardcore retail politics in action which I applaud...in context and concept but not in content.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Props to the PC Party of Alberta

I recently posted a harangue at the PC Party Executive as to where the Statement of Principles of the Party was on the new website rework. A new focus on leadership is as it ought to be BUT it threw out some fundamental and vital information about the foundational values of the Party namely the Statement of Principles. They are the best indicia of what it means to be a real Progressive Conservative party member in Alberta today. What we omitted in the website makeover was any indication as to what we believed in and stood for as a Party. The grassroots designed and endorsed Statement of Principles is the best articulation of what being a PROGRESSIVE Conservative is all about in Alberta. Dave Hancock led the process when he was President of the Party.

Happy Day! They are back on the website. Props to the Party people who made amends and made it happen.

PCs in Alberta are offering virtually any Albertan with a 16 year old pulse and a Five-spot to pick our new leader. I think that is great – raw hardcore democracy at its finest. Lots of groups are getting organized to block vote or cull candidates based on their select world view. Great! More raw hardcore democracy in action!

So those of you who will pony up the $5 bucks and who actually research the candidates and show up to vote, welcome to citizenship and to the PC Party of Alberta. I ask you to take a moment to read and reflect on our Statement of Principles. Then please consider staying as a continuing Party member and having a real “stake” in the future of Alberta and not be just partaker of the “sizzle” of the leadership campaign.

La "Menace Morton" LaPresse Sept 29/06

We do a monthly op- ed for LaPresse in Montreal on Alberta issues and events. They do the translation. Below is the latest piece that ran under the title La"menace Morton." Here is the link for the French version if you are interested.

Ralph Klein’s political sun has finally set. The race for succession reveals the Progressive Conservative Party fissures and divisions that had been held together by Klein’s electoral charisma and personal political prowess. Early traditional opinion polls put Jim Dinning in the lead. He is the former Klein finance minister, and the true architect of the old war on debt and deficit. However, he is not showing any support growth and may have peaked too early. The Alberta PC leadership race is wide open and inclusive and looks like a national election given the range of candidate perspectives, from the centre-left to the far right. Anyone 16 or older, who has lived in Alberta for six month and who has $5 for a party membership is eligible to vote. And they can buy their memberships right on voting day right at the polls.

Traditional polling is not much help in predicting the outcomes. They underestimate the fact this contest is not about opinions or intentions but rather about engaged citizens who pay for a party membership, then shows up and votes. Polls underestimated candidates like Dr. Ted Morton, University of Calgary political scientist whose neo-con values and theo-con visions align comfortably with the Bush White House and the American Republican right. He has a significant, organised, committed, energized, evangelical and old Reform Party voter base. That, with citizen cynicism and political passivity, could be enough for a first-ballot Morton majority in a crowded field of nine candidates.

Morton co-authored, along with now Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a letter to Premier Klein demanding a “firewall” be built around Alberta to “protect” the province from federal demands on sharing resource revenues with Canada. Harper appears to have moved on. Morton hasn’t. He is unapologetic, insisting that Alberta’s wealth is exclusively Albertan and we need “protection” from federal government intrusion, regardless of who is Prime Minister.

The irony is that while resource revenues are surging they aren’t what they should be. Thanks, in part to an outdated oil sands royalty regime designed in the mid1900s to attract oil sands investment when oil was about $13 a barrel. It has worked well. So well, in fact, that it has attracted a potential $100B of private investment.

Premier Klein recently admitted he had no plans to handle this level of growth. The Opposition was right to criticise Alberta’s failure to manage its prosperity and to optimize its growth. The Opposition wasn’t alone. Former Premier Peter Lougheed has said publicly the Klein government has made a “mess” of oil sands development.

Albertans are now questioning if their government is squandering its rightful share of this valuable non-renewable resource revenue. Alberta could and should have done much better in managing and stewarding oil sands development. Many projects have experienced horrific cost over runs absorbed, paid in large part, by the public, via deferred royalties.

The next leader and Premier must be a better manager of this resource, for the future of the province, our country and our planet. It is a major challenge that demands a forward-thinking imaginative leader. We need someone who can integrate the issues with insight and intelligence and who has the political will and power to envision and enact a new and “resourceful” energy policy.

Some, not all, of the candidates are capable of rising to this challenge. But first, they have to entice a cynical citizenry to get better informed, to buy a party membership, to make a conscious progressive choice and to then take the time to show up and vote. For progressive Albertans to pass on this chance to participate they default to Dr. Morton as their next Premier. He is a man whose values and vision for Alberta would be more at home in today’s U.S. Republican Party.