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Monday, December 31, 2007

Cut the Crap in the Next Federal Election

I like the tone and tenor of Garth Turner’s latest post about a forthcoming federal election. It is about time for another election. But more to the point is about trust, integrity and substance in political leadership.

Garth Turner is an MP who has reason to know, first hand, that election time is coming. And he agrees the time for an election is fast approaching.

This next election has to be about the serious issues facing Canada, our future and our place in the world. It should not be "fought" or decided based on the charisma or the chimera that has been so characteristic of the shallow contests of the recent past.

Campaigns matter and nothing can be taken for granted by anyone or any party in Canadian politics today. Canadians are in no mood to be trifled with and we know we have to apply some judgement and make some serious choices this time around. The time for pro tem government is over.

So those who aspire to power - show us your stuff...and I mean your real stuff. Do not insult us with the standard superficial posturing, spin and the photo-op spectacle that is passed off as of political and election campaigns these days.

The political gamesmanship of the past is not good enough - in fact it never was. For once, show us a campaign based on character, capacity, caring, hope and ideas and aspirations, responsibility and resourcefulness. Show us a campaign based on the substance of your party candidates and its leadership and expain the significance and seriousness of your proposed policy platforms. Show me where you see the country going and how you will get us there. Show me what sacrifices I must make to achieve the goal and why they are necessary, and explain to me the consequences of failure. Also help me understand what opportunities for success and progress await if we get it right and do it right.

I want a real choice in a real election with real flesh and blood people offering to serve the common good - not pandering for personal power and aggrandizement. So this time, in this election, use the time to convince me why I should give you and yours, as fellow human beings, my consent to govern me, to represent me and to make all the necessary hard choices on my behalf.

Remember, all you political aspirants of every political stripe - this pending election better be all about Canada and Canadians and not about you and your party friends. Like all engaged and thoughtful Canadian citizens, I am ready to listen to you, make some judgements and then to decide.

So to all nominated and soon to be nominated candidates, your voters and your fate awaits you!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Harper's Probationary Period Is Over - It's Time For an Election

Take a few moments and read this link from CTV. It provides an interesting perspective and judging by the comments so far, an election in the late spring would be timely. It is clearly Dion’s call when to force an election. Harper tried to engineer one this past fall but that was about pure opportunity politics and not about good governance.

The sniping and carping by the Cons that is all about messaging and not governing has runs its course. We are tired of Canada’s new government and tired of being environmental front men for the Bush White House.

Harper has proven his indifference to social issues, his ineptness at environmental issues. He will expose his incapacity to deal coherently with the emerging slowdown of the economy in the Budget.

The Harper minority government was elected for two reasons. To declare our disgust with the Chrétien government and, as Gomery found, the willful blindness that enabled the corruption in the Montreal wing of the federal Liberal party. Secondly we were prepared to give the Harper Cons a chance but only as a probationary minority government.

Chrétien and Martin are history and there has been enough time for the Liberals to regroup and for Dion to assert his leadership. The probation period for Harper is also effectively over and we now know a lot more about how he would lead us and where.

It is time for an election and for the wisdom of the Canadian voter to once again to decide what policy issues we consider to be important to the future of the country and how and by whom we are to be governed.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Who is Responsible for Bhutto's Death Gets "Curiouser and Curiouser"

Andy Knight’s op-ed offers his usual well reasoned and seasoned observations on the world and its disorder. Who killed Bhutto and will we ever know is a core concern of free people everywhere and in Pakistan especially. Knight canvasses the possibilities and gives a clear analysis of the usual suspects.

My earlier post on this subject is now being fleshed out by others with more experience and knowledge. The screed being promoted by the official Pakistan government spokesman tying the Bhutto assassination to al-Qaeda is being challenged by the terrorists themselves as government propaganda.

The so-called “irrefutable evidence” of al-Qaeda as the cause of the attack and the apparently “intercepted communications” that is offered as proof by Pakistan government officials. A plain reading of the transcript is so context devoid that it is laughable as to be anything closely approaching evidence.

Political charades by charlatans with the aid of a compliant or an aggressive West is not the way to solve the problems in Pakistan, Afghanistan or Iraq – or anywhere else in the world for that matter.

I am not an adherent to any “organized religion” but these words in the Lord’s Prayer are resonating with me these days: “Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil.” My concern is that the temptations we pray not to be lead into are expanding and deepening as Bush toys with an Iran invasion now too. The evil is now being caused as much by “us” as it is about “them.” This is no way to live in the world and on the planet.

We need better leaders, better decision making models in governments and we need to redefine success if we are to strive and progress in anything akin to a sustainable world order.

Well Deserved Kudos to Dave Hancock

Nice to see a politician get credit where credit is due and the Edmonton Journal Editorial today does just that for Minister of Health and Wellness Dave Hancock. Well deserved kudos.

The legislated ban on smoking in pubic and workplaces has been a long time coming to Alberta but in a few days it will be a reality. Long term this policy initiative it will add significantly to the improved health and wellness of Albertans as tobacco addiction declines and smoking becomes less socially acceptable.

Full disclosure requires that note that I worked professionally on this initiative for the coalition of Alberta health advocacy and professional organizations that have been pressing the issue for years. I also helped write a lot of Dave Hancock’s policy platform for his PC leadership bid – but not his health care policy.

Mike Huckabee Should Not Be President.

We have seen Pakistan decline into some chaos with the Bhutto assassination and the leadership wizards in Bush, Gordon and Harper saying the elections that are scheduled for Jan 8 should still go ahead. What kind of cretins are these guys?

These elections are about to be boycotted by all of Pakistan's political parties but the one lead by the guy who staged a military coup and jailed or suspended the Supreme Court and now wears suits to show he is not a military dictator. Save us and spare us!

These guys harbour terrorists as well as aid and abet the Taliban's efforts to return Afghanistan to the 5th Century. And to top it all off - they are a nuclear power.

The scene shifts to Jan 3, 2008 and the pending Iowa Primaries for United States Presidential nominees of the free world. We have a shift in the leader board and Mike Huckabee is being touted as the Republican choice for leader of the free world.

If Huckabee wins Iowa and get momentum and is victorious in the this Republican nomination contest he has a shot a being President of the United States of America. Then he will have to deal directly and day to day with all he various foreign affairs issues facing the States and the rest of the free world. That is going to include dicey situations like Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East in general and minor irritants like climate change negotiations with China, India, Russia, Brazil et al - when, of course, he is not not fighting terrorists using money borrowed from China.

Rick Mercer recently spoke to then Governor Huckabee of Arkansas in his television show "Talking to Americans." Yes the same dude who is now aspiring to the office of President of the United States of America...that Mike Huckabee. His segment is in the in the first few minutes of this video and it is worth waiting for. Do not laugh! It is a terrifying piece of video wen taken in this context.

If he is that ignorant of Canada pray tell how vacuous he will be about Pakistan and the other issues he will have to deal with?

Please America, save yourselves and the rest of the free world from the Mike Huckabees in your midst.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Voter Apathy and a Perfect Storm for Alberta Politics

Here is what voter indifference can do to the future of Alberta. We are already deeply into election mode and it will be apparent after New Years. Unless our provincial political agenda changes, we can anticipate a continuation of voter apathy. This is due to the disconnect between modern machine politics and the concerns of real people who are leading real lives and facing real issues.

What if politics does not change and the cynicism and scepticism continue as the dominant political response? Well I don’t have a worst possible partisan political scenario because that really depends on your point of view and your party affiliation.

I do however have a sense of consequences of lost and bungled opportunities for the province as well as the potential for some serious political mistakes to be made…by anyone and everyone in the running.

I think citizen indifference and voter apathy is the biggest threat to mature democracies. Apathy and indifference is not only the fault of the citizens. The political system has to take much of the blame. For those fans of proportional representation, stifle yourselves. It is not a cure…it is more likely to add complications to the affliction and erode the necessary capacity for effective on-going governing.

Here is what I think can happen as a consequence of citizen apathy and voter indifference. It is entirely possible we could end up with new leadership races in the PC, Alberta Liberals and the NDP in 2008. If that were to happen we would have squandered the opportunity for meaningful change and will set Alberta on a course of least 2 more years of drift and dissonance.

Here is my armchair quarterbacking that drives Alberta to that result. There is a PC repeat and amplification of the 2004 and the recent Calgary by election phenomenon. The far right goes to the Alliance and other marginal parties weakening the rural stronghold of the PCs. They are spread thinly and make no real electoral inroads.

The progressives stay home in disgust or show up in anger and send a message to the powers that be by parking their ballots with the Greens. Why the Greens? It is perceived as a safe parking place because it does not help the Liberals directly and sends a strong message to the PCs that the policy agenda is dated. Women and youth who do show up will be angry as well and go to the Greens too. This will be a protest vote about the relevance and priorities of the public policy agenda and mainline party platforms.

The consequence is a PC minority government. That means the knives are going to be out for Stelmach for obvious reasons. The Alberta Liberals will benefit from more seats but they are also going to be after Taft’s head too. Because he would be seen as unsuccessful and ineffective in going for the kill and gaining the political power he ought to have realized in the face of an "obviously weakened" PC party.

The Greens don’t even have to elect anyone to be seen as winners. They get a big bump in popular vote and due to protests, anger and ballot parking they rival or perhaps even surpass the NDP popular vote. That will strike fear in the hearts of the Alberta NDP and been seen across the country as a foreshadowing of what may happen to the Dippers in the forthcoming federal election too. Brian Mason’s leadership also gets challenged as a result.

A PC minority government in March of 2008 will likely results in three political party leadership campaigns by late 2008. Who knows what the outcomes of those exercises will be? One thing for sure is if this happens any semblance of real governing will be suspended for at least another year. A lack of governing focus and capacity could roll over well into 2010 and beyond as another election will undoubtedly happen sooner than later.

Uncertainty then becomes the new normal in Alberta. Not a good thing and nothing we are very used to. Frankly I don't see this happening if the political parties, particularly the PCs, get their acts together and become relevant to the lives of Albertans again.
One thing for sure though, even without this perfect storm scenario, Alberta politics are guaranteed to be interesting for the first time in a long time.

Bhutto Assassination and Shades of JFK's Death

Watching CNN this morning on the Bhutto assassination I get an eerie déjà vu from the JFK assassination. Is Rawalpindi the new Dallas in the Global Village? Is there a metaphorical grassy knoll in the park where she was speaking? Will conspiracy theories dominate the cultural interpretation of this tragedy?

The official Pakistan government information from the Interior Ministry is Bhutto dies by hitting her head on the vehicle she was travelling in. It was not the bullet(s) that we were originally told entered her neck and exiting on the other side of her skull. Nor did the suicide bomber’s shrapnel cause or contribute to her death even though it killed about 20 bystanders. “Nothing entered her head” according to government security officials and we are expected to take that “fact” at face value.

The security people are seen as immediately hosing down the site of the disaster and destroying valuable evidence in the process. She is taken to the local hospital and doctors who apparently attended to her give us sound bite diagnoses of her demise and are talking about cardiac arrest as a cause of death. There is no autopsy and Bhutto is buried in less than 24 hours. Hmmm!

We get accusations of the Pakistan intelligence agency being behind the death as well as al-Qaeda and other Islamic fundamentalists’ cells and even agents of Musharraf himself are under suspicion as being behind the assassination.

The conspiracy theories have already started and the facts are becoming irrelevant to the interpretation of the implications of this assassination. The 24 hour worldwide news cycle will show pictures and video tht will be repeated interminably. MSM will be offering little by way of insight or any commitment to confirm the accuracy of the information or analysis on implication and interpretation. Maybe the key and notworthy exception to the MSM circus will by the BBC.

Constant vigilance and striving for the truth is the responsibility of citizenship and a price of freedom in democracies. We all must cast a critical and jaundiced eye at what we are being shown and told about what happened, who did it and who is responsible.

Calgary Egmont PC Nomination Update

Looks like there is now someone who is closer to a real progressive conservative who is in the running for the PC nomination in Calgary Egmont.

Check out Don Middleton. A teacher prepared to enter politics….that has to be seen as a positive contribution to the process of getting quality people to govern us. Good on ya Don and best of luck in the nomination.

Time to beef up that website Don – it is a tad skimpy on details on who you are and what you stand for.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Wake Up Alberta and Get Ready for a February Election Call





The darkening clouds of an American recession and the presumed pending elections in Alberta and Canada means we cynical citizens have to take our heads out of the sand and start to look seriously about how we want to be governed and by whom.

Our dollar parity and the greed machine stupidity of the now world-side Us inspired sub prime mortgage fiasco, the US housing market mess, yet another BSE animal, more US soft wood protectionism and the approaching American Primaries adds to the "fun." Inflation is taking hold in Alberta and the cost of living is gettign out of control, especially for newcomers, to the point where more people are now leaving Alberta than coming here. It all helps to create a miasma of economic uncertainty going into election times.

I will spend the weeks leading up to an election focusing this blog, in part, on some of the big picture the issues and policy concerns of Albertans as we ponder the forthcoming election(s). The lack of any plan or the lack of believing we even needed one during the last half of the Klein regime has left Alberta with some seriously complicated and significantly critical issues to handle.

Commodity prices are high except for natural gas and that is masking some other economic concerns like the consequences of high costs, labour shortages, inflation, affordable housing and social services breakdowns just to name a few. I have not even touched on the environmental concerns which is becoming the new #1 issue for Alberta.

All this complexity demands experienced, effective, nimble and adaptive political and business leadership. We need more focused and activist leadership to jump into these issues and with the ability to design some comprehensive plans for serious long term solutions. Then the leadership must have the ability to focus and execute those plans.

There is not much time left for citizens of Alberta to get serious about deciding what they want changed in their government and governors. Elections are all about change and my best guess is we can expect an Alberta election writ in February. I have three date ranges in mind as to when I think that election call will happen. Feb 6 or 7 is very likely because they are the days immediately after the Throne Speech.

This is a defining opportunity for Stelmach to show once and for all he is no Klein clone. He has already effectively distanced himself from Ralph on a number of significant policy issues. The Throne Speech will be a winner if it aligns and resonates with the hopes of Albertans and helps show how we can fulfill the providence of this province. It must also addresses the fears of Albertans, and there are fears out there.

Next likely election call timing is Feb 12 or 13 which is just before the scheduled Valentines Day Budget Speech. If we get an election call instead of a Budget Speech then we can expect the “budget” to be official PC party policy and rolled out in the election campaign. This will reinforce Premier Stelmach as his own man and with a real plan and a realistic focus for the future. This pre- budget election call has happened many times before. It is not a new idea and one that may happen again.

Finally, if they let Oberg read the Budget Speech and table the Budget the rules require a certain number of days of debate. Then the writ would be dropped likely during the week of Feb 25. My instincts tell me Stelmach would like the election to be over before Easter which comes early this year, March 23 to be exact. That is why this late date post Budget timing is the least likely election call by my speculations.

So that means early or mid February election call. Putting Christmas aside, that leaves 4-6 weeks for Albertans to get their heads around what kind of government they want going forward and who they will entrust to lead us. In the meantime we have the chance to let our politicians know what we expect by way of a preferred future. I recommend direct citizen action by personal political lobbying and an aggressive citizen's action pre-campaign communications plan aimed directly at all Alberta politicians of all stripes.

So get busy Alberta and fill up the the politicians mail boxes, email in-boxes, radio call-ins and Letters to the Editors in January. Let the powers that be, and those who aspire to power, know your ideas and demands for a better Alberta. Many Alberta are coming into this election disinterested, distrusting and disgusted with how our province (and our country) has been run as of late, especially in the later days of the Klein regime and the second year of the Harper government. Cynicism, skepticism and passive hoping is not a method for effective change.

I smell democracy in the air and a desire for change. That is a potent combination that usually means change is coming. The big question is does Progressive Conservative Ed Stelmach, Alberta Liberal Kevin Taft, NDP Brian Mason or Green George Reid represents the kind of change we want and which one will best meet the future forward needs of Alberta? Albertans will be answering that question very shortly as we go to the polls with an election starting well before February is over.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Romantic Comedies - Dubya's Antidote to American Angst

Please tell me this is part spoof and part "truthiness" but the context sure fits our man Steve’s sense of his friend Dubya to a “T” (not Mr. T).

When the third largest US federal department is Homeland Security and that was accomplished in a mere 6 years you have to laugh and cry at this item. What can you say if and when the leader of the free world would see a return to better romantic comdies as a solution to American angst.

Gotta love The Onion!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Has Calgary Sun Columnist Paul Jackson Been "Suspended?"


Tip of the Hat to RustyIdols for the links and the update.

It has been awhile since Mr. Jackson appeared in the Calgary Sun pages and based on this Fast Forward story out of Calgary, it has been a while since Mr. Jackson has shown up at the newspaper to talk to the Editor-in-Chief and face the music over his action.

We all have human flaws and foibles but the measure of the man, as my old man used to say, is to have the strength of character to take responsibility for ones actions and choices. We see a lot of cheap shots taken at politicians and Mr. Jackson is a “past” (sic) master at this written “art form.”

I am not talking about commentary that is constructive criticism or opinion based on facts and honest and evidenced expressions of different perspectives. Readers of this blog know I take shots at politicians too. I even include a shot now and then at those politicians I really like. I try hard not to take cheap or personal shots. If political or personal ideology overrides intelligence, I will point it out. The key is to try and be constructive and informative and not merely partisan or ad hominem.

With Mr. Jackson MIA and presumable gone, and with the Western Standard effectively gone what will happen to the vitriolic voices of the anti-progressives and anti-liberals in Alberta?
I sure won’t miss the rants of the self-righteous right. But I am big on freedom of speech so I will still be avidly reading Link Byfield for my regular dose of the semi-Republican perspective of all things political.

It is Time For Alberta to Set Up a Comprehensive Volunteer Screening System

The media reports about child pornography charges against a school employee and volunteer involved with already vulnerable children are disturbing. The school system and the agency involved were quick to respond and did so effectively.

The question remains about how do we screen out people with inappropriate pasts and how do we continue to monitor changes in behaviours on an on-going basis that is cost effective and respects personal privacy?

The voluntary sector in Alberta under the leadership of Volunteer Alberta has been focused on this challenge for a couple of years at least. They have been advocating compulsory and comprehensive volunteer screening and police checks as part of the solution.
Full Disclosure…I had the opportunity to work with the voluntary sector on the issues and to study the practices and procedures in place for volunteer screening around Alberta. Here is a link to our report and recommendations.

The risks are to vulnerable Albertans who are served by the voluntary sector, the volunteers themselves and the agencies and directors who may face liability and will could become uninsurable for certain third-party liability risks without a government intervention to help ensure the safety and security of vulnerable clientele. Without insurance coverage these organizations will not survive.

Our report recommendations are as current today as they were in the summer of 2006 when the report was presented to government. This is a critical and complex public policy issue that ought to be undertaken by governments. A confidential, centralized comprehensive and authoritative volunteer screening and checking system should be designed, developed and implemented in conjunction with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

There needs to be due diligence procedures in place and training done in the voluntary sector to ensure the operational integrity and effectiveness of any policy. There needs to be a balance between public protection and personal privacy. There must be an on-going and confidential feedback loop to the voluntary sector agencies as the facts about the behaviours of volunteers may change over time.

There has to been reluctance that morphed into inertia at the provincial government level on dealing with this issue. If the government of Alberta is serious about health wellness and prevention, including mental health of potential victims, setting up a system for police checks and volunteers screening is a cost effective step in the right direction. It will not be fool-proof but it will discover inappropriate “volunteers” and tend to discourage and deter them from “volunteering” in the first place.

There are 19,000 registered not-for-profit organizations in Alberta who do great work in all kinds of service areas in our society. The management, directors and agencies themselves are at serious risk without proper police checks and volunteer screening policies in place. We can see, as evidenced by the recent child pornography charges, the systems can work effectively but they are no iron-clad guarantee of protection. Life is not that simple.

This matter of volunteer screening is a public safety and security need that must be addressed. It is a societal values issue that requires we also ensure adequate protection for the generous and compassionate good citizens who volunteer their time and skills to serve the greater good in our communities. It is a practical problem that will not go away or solve itself over time. It needs government intervention and some political will activiated now!

Premier Stelmach, please move immediately on the recommendation in this report on police checks and volunteers screening that commissioned by the not-for-profit voluntary sector about two years ago. Matching grant programs are great and welcome but this issue is one that, if left unattended by government policy and action, can undermine the effectiveness and even the existence of many service providers in the voluntary social services sector.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Harper's Foreign Investment Review Policy Targets China

Here is our regular monthy column that we do for the LaPresse newspaper in Montreal. It was publised last week.

The Broken Equilibrium of the Canadian Economy
Satya Das et Ken Chapman

Surging oil prices and the rising Canadian dollar will profoundly alter Canada’s equilibrium. The short-term volatility in commodity and currency markets this week is a blip on the way to $100-oil. Rising oil prices drive the dollar’s strength, as does Canada’s fiscal stability and its falling national debt.

The Canadian economic balance – relatively cheap energy prices, a weak dollar, a flourishing manufacturing industry – has been under threat throughout the early years of the new century. Now, it is definitively broken. The contrast is ever clearer between the energy-fuelled boom of Alberta and British Columbia, and the manufacturing economies of Central Canada reeling with higher input costs and reduced export revenues from the United States.

The Bank of Canada faces the difficult – if not impossible – demands of reconciling these two economies under a single fiscal policy that works to the benefit of each. Politicians aren’t likely to be satisfied with the Bank’s logical response – to concentrate on its core mission of controlling inflation, thereby preserving the intrinsic value of the currency.

The realistic answer of what to do about expensive oil and the high dollar is: get used to it. While this may be no comfort to a manufacturing sector in turmoil, the only viable strategy is to adapt to this new reality, no matter how painful this may be in the short-term. Canada, with the world’s second largest oil reserves, is the only stable democracy with a secure and abundant hydrocarbon supply. Despite the high costs of energy production in Alberta – and a recent announcement of higher royalties beginning in 2009 – the “democracy premium” is seen as well worth the price to a world thirsty for more and more oil and natural gas.

This trend is unlikely to change soon, according to the International Energy Agency, despite a growing and justified public unease about climate change and the sustainability of the hydrocarbon economy. In fact, preliminary findings from research being conducted by our firm show Albertans deeply committed to protecting habitat and capturing carbon emissions as the oil sands are developed to feed the world’s energy hunger.

Yet rising oil prices are not necessarily a disaster for Quebec and our other Canadian partners. More than half of the government revenue from oil sands development goes to the federal government. In 2006, the federal share amounted to $12 billion. This goes a long way in equalization payments, and amounts to more than a third of Ottawa’s transfer payments for health and social services.



Moreover, compared with Alberta, Quebec enjoys significant economic diversity. Quebec is home to Canada’s largest money pool, the $240 billion Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, and the tens of thousands of families it benefits. (By contrast, Alberta’s Heritage Savings Trust Fund, set up by Peter Lougheed to house petrodollar revenue, only has about $15 billion saved because government kept on diverting the interest income for general expenses). Despite recent revelations regarding its investments and fiscal performance in La Presse, the very existence of the Caisse and its clout in international markets is an asset that is the envy of other provinces.

Aerospace, the financial services sector, biotechnology, health and of course tourism are major contributors to the Quebec economy. More than 100,000 highly skilled Quebecers work in the IT industry alone. The concentration of skilled workers is surely a result of widely available and reasonably priced higher education – Quebec tuition fees are typically less than half of what college costs in Anglophone and Allophone Canada. Indeed, one can assert that Quebec is strongly placed to compete globally in the knowledge economy, precisely because it doesn’t have the “easy” money of Alberta’s petrodollars.

The challenge for Canada is to wisely invest the economic benefits of the energy boom – remember the federal share is greater than Alberta’s – in building an even stronger knowledge economy. And to apply that knowledge to “greening” our collective future by making environmental sustainability and stewardship the essential precondition of developing our energy resources.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Will the Alliance and Wildrose Parties Bring Down Ed Stelmach?

I see Grog commenting on this Blog and I found that he resides at The Cracked Crystal Ball II Blog. I recommend you visit him and daveberta for more updates on amazing political adventures of Craig Chandler.

I wonder if the polls referenced in the Chandler Fundraiser Letter at CTV Calgary and the Calgary Herald were those much abused and laughably unscientific web based “polls” that can be invaded by self-selecting and self-interested trolls. My guess it they were.

The line that I liked most from the Fundraising Letter was "Alliance, the Wildrose Party, Independents and many from the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party who are organizing to insure that Ed Stelmach is not supported in his next leadership review."

So Alliance and Wildrose members will get together with independents and some PCs, all under the Craig Chandler as martyr banner and conspire to take Ed Stelmach out as Progressive Conservative leader?

They obvously need a common enemy in order to have something they can agree on! Sweet!

Harper Decrees "There Will Be NO Nuclear Accident"


I mean Steve Harper is a smart and clever guy - we all know that because that is what we are constantly being told. But now we have to ask is he mimicking Steve Martin and being a wild and crazy guy? Could it be that Harper has morphed into Homer Simpson?

I agree that the plant has to be reopened so the isotopes can be developed. We are risking lives in real time without them. Politically deciding to reopening reactor before it is declared safe by our independent regulator is the lesser of two evils. It is a calculated risk but not one where the PM can unequivocally say there will be no accident. That is beyond misleading. It is personal arrogance morphing into delusions of omnipotence methinks.

This all-party “emergency” over-ride of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, our national nuclear energy watchdog, drives me to conclude that there is too much politics and not enough Peace Order and Good Government going on in Ottawa. And that didn’t just start 2 years ago when Harper “happenstanced” into power. This has apparently been going on for some time including under the old Liberal regime.

How come this old plant had not been upgraded earlier? Why did it take so long? Why was there not an alternative plan for isotope production during the Chalk River shutdown? Why is this 50 year old antiquated nuclear plant virtually the only global source of medical isotopes? How does this comedy of errors happen and who is to blame for it continuing?

My answer is that it is the pettiness of personality politics and the prominence of partisan bickering. That is the default culture of all political parties these days. While it is fodder for mainstream and new media, such gamesmanship allows the media to think they/we are absolved of a duty to inform and educate about what is really going on in government.

Frankly I think Canadians are past being weary of this stupidity and are now just disgusted with these antics. While our governors are trying to score cheap political points at each others expense they are seriously neglecting their real job of governing. There are serious issues facing this country and the globe and they are not easily resolved.

So Hey Ottawa, cut the cleverness and cant. Smarten up, focus and do your damn job!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Chickens Come Home to Roost

This is a week of facing the music and the consequences of past choices and bad behaviours for some pretty high profile folks.

On the criminal front the convicted serial killer and pig farmer William Picton will be sentenced this week. The convicted fraudster and British Lord pinning to be Canadian again will be sentenced today

On the political front the Commons Ethics Committee has heard from Karlheinz Schreiber, aka the Artful Dodger. Now we are anticipating the testimony from Brian Mulroney, a former Prime Minister, aka The Eloquent Liar.

In Alberta the “colourful” Dr Lyle Oberg is reported to be announcing his “retirement” from politics today. Dr. Oberg was adept at sitting on political powder kegs and giving off sparks. Stelmach has run out of patience with the irrepressible Dr. Oberg. It looks like he is about to politically implode instead of explode as he goes out with a whimper and not much of a bang.

In theses examples we have some proof that the systems will actually work effectively on occasion.

Alberta Separatist David Crutcher Also Not Acceptable as a PC Candidate

Dec 11 - CORRECTION: there is a comment from Mr. Chandler correcting a factual error on this post. He says Mr. Crutcher was not his campaign manager in the recent Calgary Egmont PC nomination campaign. Harley Shouldice was the campaign manager, and according to the comment, still is Mr. Chandler's campaign manager. Thank you for bring that correction to our attention.
As for Mr. Crutcher's Alliance Leadership campaign platform where he outlined his conditions for Alberta separation, the links in this post to his position on this matter speaks for itself.


It was with some amusement that I found that Mr. David Crutcher is considering running for the PC Party nomination in Calgary Egmont. This gentleman was Craig Chandler’s campaign manager for his recent “successful” nomination in Calgary Egmont. Mr. Chandler was recently rejected as a candidate by the Progressive Conservative Party Executive Committee for “not being in the best interests of the Party.”

The quid pro quo irony is that Mr. Chandler was Mr. Crutcher’s campaign manager in his failed bid to leader the Alberta Alliance Party in 2005 where he came in third of four candidates.

Mr. Crutcher was very recently elected President by one vote of the Calgary Egmont PC Association and was removed from the Presidency for supporting Chandler and not remaining neutral in the nomination process.

This trial balloon candidacy is being seen as a bit of mischievousness by some and sour grapes by others on the far right. I believe Mr. Chandler has moved on to the Alberta Alliance or the new Wildrose Party or some other manifestation of the far-right fringe element in Alberta’s political “culture.” Mr. Crutcher seems to want to keep the nomination pot boiling and so be it but lets give him a heads up first and tell him that he will not be the PC candidate under any circumstance.

Looking into some of Mr. Crutcher’s background and previous policy positions one can easily conclude his candidacy is also “not in the best interests of the party.”
I think he should be told that now and well in advance of exercising any delusions he may have of running for nomination and hoping his candidacy will be accepted by the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party.

He, like Mr. Chandler, is also misaligned and likely maladaptive to the Statement of Principles of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party. When he was running for the leadership of the Alberta Alliance Party in 2005 he touted Alberta separation from Canada as part of his campaign policy. He couched his policy position saying that Alberta should not seek separation from Canada if the Harper Cons won the next federal election. That is sure reassuring (sic).

Such a policy position in his leadership bid of another political party shows that Mr. Crutcher will not be able to adhere to at least one of the very significant Statement of Principles of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party, namely:

ALBERTA AS AN EQUAL PARTNER IN CONFEDERATION
We must strive to maintain sovereignty over provincial matters, believing that a strong and vibrant Alberta is a cornerstone of a strong and united Canada.”

The Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta is not a separatist party Mr. Crutcher. Mark Norris mused about this idea for a few moments in the recent leadership campaign and quickly changed his tune. He lost his leadership bid - badly!




The PC Party believes in a strong Alberta within a strong Canada and will not harbour any overt or closet separatists. Don’t waste your time and money Mr. Crutcher. It is time for you to move on too sir!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Thoughts on Bitumen Upgrading and Electrical Deregulation

There is an Anonymous commenter who has been pressing me to comment on bitumen upgrading and electrical deregulation. Here as some preliminary thoughts on bitumen and deregulation…but only top of mind comments. The matters are very complex and they really need to be addressed in a more comprehensive and non-trivial way.

The lack of capacity today for sufficient Alberta-based bitumen upgrading is due to the former government’s indifference toward planning. That and the single minded determination to pay down the debt and deficit as fast as possible instead of sticking to the original 25 year repayment plan. That was the other major misjudgement. Those were the central themes in the leadership of Ralph Klein.

Now we are in a downstream mess of lost opportunities in value-added processing because Alberta's leadership went fishing and golfing instead of planning and designing for our future. We Albertans knew what was going on and we should have been insisting on our government investing in preparation of what was an obvious and inevitable set of circumstances. We may have the same dynamics afoot over our political passivity about climate change. That is much more serious situation that we have to get right and right away.

It is not all Ralph's fault. Albertans kept his personal polling numbers in the 70s all through this time. We tacitly approved of this lack of planning because we were intoxicated by the accelerated rate of debt reduction and the rapid pace of energy sector growth.

We Albertans were wilfully blind or not smart enough to consider the consequences and we failed to prepare for the inevitable implications. We failed ourselves as we chose instead to get caught in the shallow charismatics of personality politics. True Ralph kept his promise but he only really made one promise and we needed more.

Albertans should have been shifting our political demands and leadership expectation much earlier than April 2006. What we need now is to move towards a new pioneering style leadership. Now, more than ever, we need political leadership that is capable of creating a capacity for positive adaptive change so Alberta can be responsible, sustainable as well as resourceful (sic).

Alberta public opinion sustained, for far too long, a leadership style that did nothing to help us change our ways so we could respond appropriately to our obvious emerging needs. We have failed to move our focus fast enough towards optimizing our readiness to deal with our easily foreseeable future.

The electricity market in Alberta is the newest ideologically driven political oxymoron. It is based on the shortcomings of marketplace politicians. California, with the same population as Canada, was too small for an electricity free market to work effectively. We knew it or ought to have known it but foolishly we rushed in anyway.

The folly of Alberta's "free market experiment" in electricity deregulation was lead by the ideology of the likes of Steve West. That far right ideology was based in the unfailing belief that the marketplace is the best place to resolve of all the public's policy problems. A least the ones that are worth paying attention to in the first place.

This deregulation decision has harmed Alberta's economy and impaired the capacity of individuals to improve their living standards. Furthermore it has done nothing to protect or enhance the Alberta environment.

Any effective public policy today has to contribute positively to all three of these elements in an integrated way before it should be adopted.

Thoughts on the "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" Contract

So the Murray Smith contract as Alberta’s envoy in Washington DC is finally public knowledge. I posted on this on November 14 saying I couldn’t understand the stance of the Stelmach government around withholding details on the Smith and Love contracts.

The Privacy Commissioner had ordered them released and saw no merit in the governments concerns over Mr. Smith’s privacy. Full disclosure, I know Murray Smith politically and personally and thought he was a terrific choice for this new position.

I did not know any of the specific details of the appointment or his contract at the time and only know what I read in the media about it. My only issue is still why this matter had to be FOIPED and why was there any resistance by the government to disclose the terms of the agreement?

The terms of the compensation and “preqs” may be seen as too much for some people. I don’t think the compensation was out of line so given the nature and the importance of the job. Others have argued that this was like any other foreign office appointment and why was Smith dealt such a different contract than a career bureaucrat.

Smith is not a career bureaucrat. This was a time specific independent contractor arrangement. That was the best way to proceed for this new undertaking to get Alberta’s position on key issues into the Washington consciousness.

For the first issue, the Alberta needed and experienced and effective dealer for our concerns with the US on many fronts. In those days they ranged from softwood lumber to mad cow to trade and energy issues plus homeland security angst in the States. Alberta would not be served well by a bureaucratic approach. This was not a position mostly about analysis, process and operations.

Smith would be dealing with issues that were sensitive political, policy and Intergovernmental concerns within Canada as well as with the States. These concerns would be complex, significant and often urgent enough that the position would need to be answering directly to the Premier’s office. That is why Murray Smith, with his political and professional experience, was such a good choice. That is why Gary Mar is also a great replacement choice.

The government was asking someone with experience and competence to take three years out of their life and take on a difficult and complex job with lots of risk and numerous elements of significant concern to the future of Alberta. You also had to have the ability solve real problems by getting the Alberta position and issues clearly and competently to the right people and the right places in the American governance system in a thorough and timely manner.

You had to start the job immediately and be prepared to jump into the tasks quickly and effectively dealing with all issues and events we know of and be nimble and capable enough to handle anything else that might arise. There is no easing into the job and no “how to manual” to follow. You have to figure it out as you go along and failure is not an option. And by the way, there is no job for you to come back to when you are finished this task.

So why the secrecy around the contract in the first place? Beats me!

Wildrose Party Ready For Official Party Status

Congratulations to Link Byfield and Rob James and the Wildrose Party of Alberta in gathering over 6300 signatures in a petition to Elections Alberta for official party status.

My guess is we are into an election call in February. The three dates in my mind are Feb 5, right after the Throne Speech or February 12 or 13, just before the Budget or around February 28, after the debate on the Budget.

OK Link and Rob – next job is to get candidates nominated. Will Craig Chandler be one of them?

Is Dr Oberg Really Reconsidered and Perhaps is NOT Running for Re-election?

I hope Rick Bell of the Calgary Sun is right that Dr. Lyle Oberg has decided not to run in the next election. He has been running his own political and policy agenda for way too long and he has damaged the PC brand in so many ways...not to mention Premier Stelmach.

Being kicked out of caucus by the caucus itself would have been enough of a message for a mere mortal. But because Oberg felt he was somehow above the rest. By recklessly insinuating the rest of them were hiding "skeletons" without any substantiation was the last straw for me.

Running for the leadership after that was little more than hubris. Undertaking to disclose his campaign contributors and still not doing so after full year has elapsed doesn’t add to his credibility or to his suitability for public service.

I give Dr. Oberg credit for one thing. He picked a damn good independent expert panel to review the royalty regime. The mandate was too narrow but the people were great. The Premier quickly took over control of the royalty file and put Oberg on the shelf.

Good thing too because at the end of the day Oberg couldn’t even leave that matter well enough alone and his inappropriate comments cast a doubt over the royalty review implementation. By Oberg saying there would be backroom tweaking of the deal between government and industry has put Stelmach's credibility back a step - or two. That was just as polls were showing the citizens of Alberta were starting to trust and respect him. I can't believe that this undermining of the Premier was not entirely intentional by Dr. Oberg.

Stelmach appointing Dr. Oberg to his Cabinet was an obvious act of "keeping your enemies closer." I hope Rick Bell is right. It is time to cut Dr. Oberg loose Mr. Premier, and while you at it take a second look at his ally Guy Boutilier. He is the Lyle Oberg Mini-Me and has also proven time and time again that he is not adequate for your Cabinet. He should be told that now and then let him decide if he wants to pack it in now too.

One of the criticisms I have had of Premier Stelmach’s office is the lack of a son-of-bitch in their ranks. Klein had Rod Love and Peter Elzinga…different styles but both were very effective at delivering bad news to MLAs and Cabinet Ministers when needed. If Oberg goes, I may have to re-evaluate my assessment of Stelmach’s crew in that regard. If Oberg goes someone in his office would have taken this bull by the horns.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

What's the Worst That Can Happen???

This video and the straight forward analysis of climate change and our possible responses to it is compelling. It is clear and straighforward in dealing with waht most of us see has a very complex issue.

This is a wonderful example of the WWW and the Internet at its best.

Take the itme to watch it, think about it and share it.

Paul Jackson, Calgary Sun Columnist, Flip Flops on Support for Chandler

Jim Brown, the host of the Calgary CBC Radio One morning show the “Calgary Eye Opener” does a professional job today in interviewing Paul Jackson of the Calgary Sun. It is all about Mr. Brown trying to get a rational explanation from Mr. Jackson over certain events and some clarity as to where he actually stands on supporting Mr. Chandler's political aspirations.

The interview topic is how Mr. Jackson was apparently the victim of a crank call from the office of the Premier of Alberta. Mr. Jackson, a seasoned journalist, says he received a phone call from some one who did not give him their name. Mr. Jackson says he did not recognize the voice as anyone he knew from the Premier's office. The anonymous caller claimed to be from the Premier's office was apparently calling Mr. Jackson asking him to support a candidate in the Calgary Egmont PC nomination. That candidate was not Mr. Chandler.

Mr. Jackson acknowledges writing a column supporting the "other" candidate but "as a courtesy" he sent an email to Mr. Chandler advising him of the "call" from the Premier's office. Mr. Chandler jumps on this "opportunity" and goes to the media claiming interference by the Premier's office in his nomination bid. It gets even sillier and there is more, but best you listen to the whole radio interview and form your own opinions.
Putting the two events together and you are left wondering how a seasoned journalist like Jackson could become woven into such a tangled web of circumstances. Trying to square Mr. Jackson’s circle as he explains on the CBC what really happened and where he really stands on Mr. Chandler as a political candidate is a tad challenging to follow. Given the events, you can understand Mr. Chandler's astonishment at these events and what appears to be Mr. Jackson's inexplicable personal expression of cognitive dissonance. And these gentlemen share the same ideological base - way out there on the far right.

Mr. Jackson notes he has been in the media business for 43 years. Based on these performances and his explanation of events the kindest comment one can come up with is to suggest at the very least Mr. Jackson needs some serious media training.

Is the Ethics Committee Lobbying Schreiber?

I watched the Ethics Committee meeting last night on CPAC. My observations are that the committee members are in effect lobbying Mr. Schreiber looking for answers that fit their preconceived theories or their preferred outcomes of what went on between himself and Mr. Mulroney.

The weakest contributions were from the Bloc. They are ill prepared and only want to link Charest in some way. They are playing for the home crowd politically in Quebec and not really concerned about the larger issues here.

The Liberals are at sea, not sure what they want to ask and although Mr. Goodale was more focused and capable than most yesterday. He even gave the media the document reference from a 1985 policy on what politicians could or could not do after leaving office. Smart move!

The Cons are all about damage control and narrowing the focus of the process to keep the story short and away from Mr. Harper. They are trying avoid anyone using a “sniff” test to measure the appropriateness of these goings-on. They are single-mindedly out to distance Harper from Mulroney.

In fact Mr. Tilson, a Con on the committee, has already declared Mr. Mulroney exonerated based solely on one day of testimony in the disjointed and restricted questioning the committee process. And he has not even read the documents yet but is trying to convince us Mulroney is already off the hook. The Cons in committee are about damage control, sticking to the message and spin to innoculate thier leader from any infection Mulroney might bring. Expect them to be focused on being narrow and shallow and misdirecting attention to the bigger picture.

The NDP is doing the best job. Mr. Martin’s seething anger is genuine but not helpful at this stage of the proceedings. He wants to nail anyone and everyone involved and his rhetoric is getting away on him. I appreciate his zeal but it may let his quarry off the hook if he does not use a more calculated and less emotional approach.

The NDP’s Mr. Mulcair is new to the House of Commons, winning a recent by-election. He is also new the federal committee processes and rules but is by far the best and most effective interrogators so far. Finding out yesterday that the RCMP did not even contact Mr. Schreiber over Airbus and when the settlement of the defamation action with Mr. Mulroney was negotiated is astounding. That critical piece of evidence is thanks to Mr. Mulcair. I wonder where that will lead especially given all the other troubling incidences we have seen from the RCMP of late.

Finally the best performance by a country mile is the Chair, Mr. Paul Szabo. Fair-minded, respectful, tempered and generous of spirit, he is doing an excellent job. Reading the apology into the record yesterday over the shabby and disgraceful treatment Mr. Schreiber received is the measure of Mr. Szabo. He took the time to carefully detail the disgraceful treatment Mr. Schreiber suffered while going to his home to retrieve documents he remained handcuffed, surrounded by police and was not given his belt back. Those circumstances caused a affront to Mr. Schreiber’s personal dignity on national television. The apology by Mr. Szabo to Mr. Schreiber for that embarrassing and humiliating incident on behalf of all Canadians was appropriate and necessary.

Are the White Supremacists Upset?

I see the recent decision by the PC Party of Alberta to reject a Calgary nominee for has made the "big time" with the White Supremacists. This link came to my Inbox today. The story entitled “Christians, They’re Coming for You!” is the specific reference on this site Stormfront.org. If this connection is any indication of who the PC Party would be associated with, I have to say the Party sure made the right decision on Saturday. For the record and to be fair, there is no indication that Mr. Chandler is in anyway associated with Stormfront.


The posting facts are quite accurate – only one quibble in that while the Executive Committee meeting went on for 4 hours, not all of that time was dedicated to dealing with the nomination decision as implied. But that is a quibble. The tone of the story is an entirely different matter.


There is some "good news." I checked out the Threads on the site. At the time of writing this post Mr. Fromm’s piece has not generated much interest, Zero Replies and 57 visits, including me I expect. A piece on Calgary Tattoo Shops posted 3 hours earlier had 21 replies and 604 visits. Not sure what that means or says about the readership of this site but it is an interesting comparison.

The website invites you to download the weekly radio show of Dr. David Duke. Suspecting he is the same David Duke of Ku Klux Klan fame, I resisted.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

PC Party Should Learn From the Chandler Experience and Fix Its Nomination and Leadership Process

The right decision was made by the PC Party Executive Committee on Mr. Chandler’s suitability for candidacy in the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta. The matter is not over. Beyond Mr. Chandler’s indications he may sue the Party for his nomination costs which he says are $127,000.00, the PC Party needs to revisit its nomination and leadership selection processes.

The PC Party, and other political parties too I expect, need to review their nomination process in the light of expectations of accountability, transparency and fairness. Premier Stelmach promised the Party would review and fix the leadership process. Let’s kill two birds and deal with the nomination process at the same time.

Let’s learn from the Chandler experience and do some Constitutional updating. First fairness. If the Leader or the Party Executive has reservations about a candidate pursuing nomination perhaps we need to take a page from the federal CPCs and have a questionnaire and statutory declaration completed by each candidate before they are eligible to run. We can confidentially get a sense of their background and skeletons, if any, and judge their suitability up front. We should not have to rely on Dr. Oberg for this information on skeletons. A suitability test and a decision could be made without embarrassing anyone.

Second, we need full disclosure of donors and perhaps limits on nomination campaign spending to level the playing field and for transparency. If Mr. Chandler spent $127,000.00 for about 950 votes, how did he spend it? Did he buy every supporter dinner in a nice restaurant? For that money? He could have.

Who ponied up $127,000 in the first place? Spending that kind of money at this level of the political process shows that Mr. Chandler is clearly only a social conservative...he is no fiscal conservative, that is for sure. Can you imagine how he might spend of our tax money if he were in government? We need to clean this matter up in the leadership process too. We have been waiting about a year and still don't know who supported Do. Oberg's leadership despite his promise to disclose donors. Dr. Morton said he will not disclose his leadership campaign donors and under the current Party rules - he is entitled to that entitlement. Not good enough.

We have some fixin’ to do in the PC Party around our nomination and leadership processes. This is up to the Party not the leader to undertake this job. Let’s get at it.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Kudos to Pengrowth Corporation

I have been very critical of some energy industry players and the tactics they used during the time between the “Our Fair Share” royalty review report release and the government’s decision on the review's recommendations.

It appears that some politically targetted hyperbole is still emanating from some companies who are still claiming that the increased royalties are the critical cause of decline in conventional exploration. The corporate capital and exploration spending announcements for 2008 are usually the catalyst and the platform they for the misdirection and somewhat slight of hand presentation. Royalties are a factor but hardly the only or the major factor impacting the conventional oil and gas business in Alberta theses days.

Well I have found a very significant and noteworthy exception to that political gamesmanship and I want to complement Pengrowth Energy Trust (TSX: PGF.UN) (NYSE: PGH), in how it handled its capital spending announcement.

They present a clear, comprehensive and detailed estimate of the impact of increased royalties on its costs, asset evalutration implications and capital spending plans for 2008. No hype or political posturing – just sound and clear analysis.

This is kind of corporate reporting is refreshing, reassuring and timely. It sets a good example. Kudos to Mr. James Kinnear, the Chair, President, CEO and the rest of the Pengrowth Corporation Board and management.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

How the Subprime Market "Works"

This video is a very factual and funny explanation of how the market "works." It is over 8 minutes but worth every minute of it.

Stelmach's First Year as Alberta's Premier

Premier Stelmach has had a busy first year as Premier. He had a shaky start. He seems to be getting his legs firmly underneath him now and is well on his way to delivering on most of his Leadership campaign initiatives. Some accuse him of being a ditherer but the events and actions over the last year and the recent accelerating pace of politics in Alberta proves otherwise.

Lots more in the hopper too as this session winds down and the new budget get finalized and the platform planks for the forthcoming election get framed. There are only 4 candidates yet to be nominated for the PC Party and that has gone well too…especially in terms of the recent rejection of Mr. Chandler.

It is nice to see the positive bounce for him in the recent poll in the post royalty review period. It is worth noting the Taft Liberals also got a positive bounce in the same poll.

Now Stelmach has to get Oberg to take speech lessons from Marcel Marceau and get him to stop talking and sabotaging the policy development and deployent process on royalties.

Any meetings with Energy and the industry better be in public or held off until the Lobbyists Act is proclaimed with the regulations so we can be assured there is no closed door dealings between government official, politicians and the energy sector.

Albertans as the Owners of the resource will want to know every thing that is being said and to understand the significance of all of the discussions and the implications.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Stelmach Refuses Chandler as a Candidate

The Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta Executive and Leader of the party has met in Red Deer and made up its mind about Mr. Chandler’s suitability as a PC Candidate in the upcoming election.

Mr. Chandler’s candidacy in Calgary Egmont is not acceptable and is deemed not to be in the best interests of the PC Party of Alberta.

The Premier announced that decision to the media at about 2:30 this afternoon in Red Deer.

Mr. Chandler is saying democracy is dead in the PC Party of Alberta. He was not kicked out of the party but he indicated to media in Red Deer after the decision that he will not stay in a party that doesn’t respect the decision of the local constituency.

It is ironic that this decision about his suitability for candidacy in the PC Party of Alberta is the same city where The Concerned Christian Coalition, to which Mr. Chandler was associated, was found, by the Alberta Human Rights Commission to:

“…have contravened s.3 of the Act (Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act) by causing to be published in the Red Deer Advocate, before the public, a publication which is likely to expose homosexuals to hatred or contempt because of their sexual preferences.”

Well done Ed and congratulations to the rest of the PC Party Executive Committee too. It is the right decision and done in the right way and for the right reasons. The decision is also consistent with the Statement of Principles of the Party, especially as we say we are a party that is open and accessible to all.

We state in those Principles that we are “…a Party for all Albertans. We welcome their thoughts, their efforts, and support the principles of progressive conservativism.”

That means homosexuals too Mr. Chandler.

This is a good day for the PC Party of Alberta. This decision speaks well of the PC Party. It also shows Alberta to be an inclusive and welcoming province. It shows that Alberta PCs are prepared to stand up to hatred and contemptuous behaviour.

This decision to reject Mr. Chandler’s nomination shows the Premier Stelmach as going on record to assure all citizens that their fundamental freedoms and equality rights under the Charter will be honoured in Alberta by a Progressive Conservative party and his government.

You are wrong again Mr. Chandler. This is a great day for democracy in Alberta.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Alberta Human Rights Commission Releases Panel Decision on Boissoin and The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc.

If you are cocooning at home this cold weekend take some time to read the just released Alberta Human Rights Commission Panel’s Decision on Darren E. Lund and Stephen Boissoin and The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc. and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Attorney General of Alberta.

It is very enlightening and chilling read about how some people and some organizations have been conducting themselves in ways that contravenes the Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act.

Free Speech and Political Candidates

There is an anonymous comment on my posting of yesterday aimed at clarifying the resolution of the Canadian Human Rights complaint against Mr. Chandler. I thought a response to parts of the comment was worthy of a separate posting.

The Anonymous commenter says (in part) "There was no human rights decision, there was an agreement. Craig was not forced to do anything. He could have fought it but chose not to as he is a consensus builder."

Thank you Anon at 8:47 for the clarification on the Canadian Human Rights complaint against Mr. Chandler. I have chaired a human rights inquiry for the Alberta Human Rights Commission and presume the Canadian Human Rights Commission follows a similar approach and procedure.

The preferred remedy in these kind of human rights matters is to have a mediated and negotiated mutually agreeable resolution before calling a formal inquiry. That approach seeks a more enduring and effective solution that satisfies both parties without having to impose a decision by the Commission.

From the Anonymous comment that mutually agreeable resolution is what apparently happened in the complaint against Mr. Chandler. That being the case, I complement Mr. Chandler for apologizing and agreeing to such a respectful resolution of the issue.

Finding "guilt" in matters of human rights is not usually a very effective resolution because it does not likely change anything about the underlying problems and attitudes of the people involved.

A genuine and authentic public apology is a much better solution for the parties. Such a resolution of a complaint will hopefully also add to the social cohesion and mutual respect within a diverse community. Instead of finding a person guilty of a human rights offence and being fined or facing some other penalty versus that same person admitting a mistake and taking steps to rectify the damage they caused is a significant difference.

However, if the apology is not genuine or authentic and does not truly indicate a change in attitude and beliefs it is not effective. If it is used merely a tactical means to avoid a hearing on the issues and the problem, beliefs and attitudes persists, then there is no effective negotiated resolution.

Anonymous indicates Mr. Chandler has hired legal counsel to review newspaper and blogs presumably looking for opportunities to pursue litigation. I noted in an earlier blog posting that that looking for potentials to use litigation by people who are being judged and commented on in public would not be a surprise.

However, Mr. Chandler is a public figure, especially since he has put himself and his beliefs into the public sphere, politically and otherwise. He has done this in many ways and for many years. He is reported to have offered himself up before as a candidate for political office including as a leadership candidate for a federal political party.

Mr. Chandler is a strong advocate for free speech and he has a right to correct errors of fact to preserve his reputation. That said, under the circumstances of offering himself up again for elected public office, the public has a right to know about Mr. Chandler. He is a public political figure and clearly subject to fair comment and to expressions of opinions about his suitability for political candidacy and to hold elected public office.

After all, that is what elections are all about. The public goes through the election process to form opinions and to make choices about the suitability of candidates who offer themselves to govern us. We give politicians a great deal of power and discretion over our lives when we elect them. We citizens need to be informed and able to make careful and considered decisions about who we will vote for and to whom we will grant our consent to govern.

Earning the privilege of public office is based on the collective judgements of citizens about the abilities, capacities, character, values, opinions, beliefs, and yes even the past activities of the candidates. Consequently political parties and their leaders must have an over-riding discretion to accept or reject nominees for candidacy.

In the case of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta, this over-arching discretion is applied to all nominees from every constituency so Mr. Chandler is not and should not be seen as a special case. Prime Minister Harper, for example, has recently reject three nominees for candidacy in the Conservative Party of Canada. It happens.

For full disclosure I am a member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta and I have been clear in this Blog that I do not think Mr. Chandler is a suitable candidate for the PC Party of Alberta. While members and other individuals are entitled to express opinions freely and openly about the suitability (or not) of any candidate or potential candidate, it is not our decision.

In my political party that over-arching discretion is vested in the Executive Committee and the Leader through the PC Party of Alberta Constitution. It is up to them to accept or reject a nominee based on what they decide is in "the best interests of the Party." These matters are being dealt with tomorrow at a meeting of the PC Party Executive Committee and the Leader. That is a good thing and I look forward to their decision.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Alaska and Alberta Both Dealing With Resource Revenue Issues.

I received an email about the tougher stance Alaska has recently taken with its oil industry. Looks like posturing and game playing in the energy sector is not restricted to Alberta.

The Anchorage Daily News from Alaska has some déjà vu commentary like:

"ConocoPhillips says it's canceling a major North Slope project because the new oil tax denies deductions for the work, but the state revenue commissioner says the company never deserved the tax breaks in the first place.

The project involved upgrading a refinery in the Kuparuk oil field to make ultra low-sulfur diesel, the use of which federal law and a state agreement will require across the oil patch by the end of the decade.

ConocoPhillips, Alaska's top oil producer, and its partners wanted the state to allow tax breaks for the $300 million project under the state tax overhaul lawmakers adopted last year.

In a special session that ended Nov. 16, however, lawmakers passed Gov. Sarah Palin's new tax plan, which hiked oil taxes further and specifically forbade tax breaks for projects such as ConocoPhillips' refinery upgrade."

There is more to the story…there always is…but isn’t this interesting…Alberta is not alone in dealing with a fair share of natural resource revenues.

Mr. Premier - Just Say No to Mr. Chandler!

The PC Party Executive and its leader, Ed Stelmach, is coming together in Red Deer this Saturday to consider if Mr. Craig Chandler’s nomination in Calgary Egmont is in the best interests of the party. I am unequivocal in saying that it is not.

Mr. Chandler’s record speaks for itself and is being well exploited by Liberal Bloggers and well documented and commented on in the main stream media in Alberta and now nationally in the Globe and Mail editorial pages. These commentaries are focused on Mr. Chandler’s attitudes and beliefs and issues with matters decided by the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

The record of Mr. Chandler speaks for itself and is well documented. I also think this matter has some purely crass political elements that need to be considered as well. The Stelmach government has some serious challenges in retaining and recruiting electoral support in Calgary.

The Calgary response to the Stelmach Cabinet appointments was shock and awe as they felt frozen out of their usual place of power and influence. The loss of former Premier Klein’s seat to the Liberals in the by-election in Calgary Elbow earlier this year was a very clear shot across the Stelmach bow. The recent full court press on the royalty review emanating from the energy towers in downtown Calgary is another unsettling example.

The PC party appears to be at least organizationally inert in Calgary and that ennui allowed the Alliance Party to take over the Egmont PC constituency and to be very effective in nominating Mr. Chandler as their “favourite son.”

To accept Mr. Chandler’s nomination means the citizens as voters in Calgary Egmont will see the Candler candidacy as nothing more than the Alliance party in a Progressive Conservative wrapper. That means the PC Party will effectively forfeit this seat to the Liberals if they accept Mr. Chandler’s nomination. How can forfeiting a seat to another party be in the best interests of the party?

Chandler’s candidacy will be the election story in Calgary and may be seen by Calgarians as yet another slight to that city by the PC party offering a candidate who has a proven record that does not respect the human rights of homosexuals. Calgary is a modern, inclusive and cosmopolitan city. It is hard to see a circumstance where Calgarians will embrace a candidate with these values and attitudes of Mr. Chandler. They are so out of alignment with how that great Canadian city sees itself.

There is not a single compelling reason to accept Mr. Chandler’s nomination on merit, principle or even based on pure politics. I can’t imagine how the Ed Stelmach that I know could see any way that he would welcome Mr. Chandler to his team as a Progressive Conservative candidate in Calgary. But politics is a strange business so we will have to wait and see how this all unfolds (or unravels) on Saturday.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Schreiber Is On His Way to Ottawa

So Karlheinz Schriber is on his way to Ottawa - no thanks to the Minister of Justice the Honourable Rob Nicholson.

I expect CPAC will be covering the committee testimony of Mr. Schreiber tomorrow. With this testimony, this event should be their highest ratings since Chrétien brought his golf balls to the Gomery Inquiry.

Why is Rob Nicholson Abdicating His Responsibillity to Serve Justice in the Mulroney Schreiber Affair?

UPDATE NOV 29/07 - the government of Canada has agreed to push back Mr. Schreiber's extradition to Dec 10 but Schreiber's lawyers' refused this offer saying the matter is before Ontario Court of Appeal to decide this matter. Schreiber is seeking a stay of the extradition order pending a Leave to Appeal to the Supreme Court. That is likely to be the end result in my opinion which means that Schreiber will be in Canada long enough to prepare and appear before the Commons Ethics Committee pursuant to the Speaker's Warrant.
On what basis is the Honourable Rob Nicholson, the federal Minister of Justice saying he has no authority to delay the extradition of Karlheinz Schreiber? The Extradition Act is clear that he such discretionary powers. The law clerk of the House of Commons says he does as do other legal experts.

The Ontario Court of Appeal says “…the ultimate decision” in extradition matters is political. Ah yes! There is the rub. Our Honourable Minister of Justice is appearing to be playing politics and preferring that goal instead of using his discretionary power for the purposes of good government.

Mr. Harper is a master tactician and is no doubt behind this Minister’s attitude. One can even speculate that when Harper called for the public inquiry in the Mulroney/Schreiber Affair he intended that Mr. Schreiber would never be available to testify because he would be in a German prison by then. If that is not the case, Mr Harper needs to tell his Minster of Justice that he should be serving the purposes of justice and not purely partisan politics.

What else can you conclude except the Cons are treating this situation as all about politics and not the greater goal of good government? Given the intransigence, indifference, insouciance and insolence of the Minister of Justice to appropriately exercise his discretion Canadians have to be thankful the Cons are a mere minority.

The time to end the pilot project of the Conservative minority government is coming to an end. The time for an election is not now but it is fast approaching.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Israel and Palestine Leaders Agree to Negotiation Talks

Israeli and Palestinian leaders have agreed to start to talk about negotiating everything for the creation of an independent Palestinian state. They are planning on meeting every two weeks starting December 12 until the end of 2008 – when they hope to wrap up an agreement.

A hopeful sign for sure but with a long way to go. The world has been here before so we need to have more details of what makes this time any different. A deep division exist within the two countries and amongst all the members of Arab world, but talking is much better than bullets and bombs.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Climate Change Aspirations Won't Cut It Mr. Harper

The headlines coming out of the weekend meet of the Commonwealth “Defiant Harper Pans Climate Change Critics” tell us only part of the story. The distinctly isolationist stance of the Harper government to the obvious direction of world opinion on climate change is the more important political issue. Quite frankly the political issues fade in comparison to the policy issue of the need to deal with global warming.

Harper has “disputed this characterization” of Canadian policy being isolationist. That said, there are few “leaders” left who continue to effectively deny climate change. The Cabal of climate-change deniers that promote the aspirational model of dealing with global warming are disappearing faster than the polar ice-caps.

Australian’s dramatically dumped John Howard as he recently suffered the worst electoral defeat in the 63 year history of his party. He lost his own seat to boot…the first time that a sitting Prime Minister had been voted out of the Australian parliament since 1929. OUCH! Dubya has moved from lame-duck status to just plain lame in terms of leadership on climate change. He has turned over Republican leadership on the issue to “The Governator” Arnold Schwarzenegger. That irony still sticks in my mind.

Political aspirations to public policy are like water is to soup, necessary but not sufficient. Harper insisting on a 100% consensus on an issue as complex as climate change, is not leadership. It is just more of the Harper trademark of overwhelming tactical posturing inevitably leading to an underwhelming policy position.

It is time to move hard toward a binding commitment on emissions. Going green provides a wonderful opportunity for the developed world for a new form of genuine wealth creation and progress. Moving forward on hard emission standards will be the catalyst to generate new innovations and inventions that will benefit the ecology of the plant, the economy of all nations and the social cohesion of the human species.

In the 60’s JFK, in the face of the space race, challenged the American people to put a man on the moon and return him safely within that decade. They did it. It is time for an inspirational leader from the developed world to articulate and aspire to such a challenge climate change goal for the benefit of all mankind. No such leader is on the political stage at present. Al Gore has made it clear he is not going to run so he is not “in the wings.”

It is time again that we humans had a new and equally as bold aspiration as putting a man on the moon. But now we need a goal that is more profound and pertinent to the future of mankind and the planet than going to the moon will ever be. We have to change our habits and redefine success in terms of a more common wealth. We have to immediately slow down our ecologically destructive activities. We then have to focus on learning to adapt and alter our activities so that we reverse our impacts on climate change. While the urgent always trumps the important, this climate change reality is both important and urgent.

We need an inspirational call to action that is borne of a growing and increasingly urgent necessity due to climate change. The challenge today is more compelling than JFK’s aspiration to put a man on the moon. We need to get moving fast and hard, as individuals, enterprises, communities, governments and nations on reversing the impacts of our species on the planet through climate change.

We need to undertake this with a vigorous commitment and conviction beyond mere aspirations Mr. Harper. Only that way we can ensure that life on earth, including our species, can be safely sustained and even enhanced. This is not as romantic a challenge as sending a man to the moon. But it is much more meaningful to the role of mankind and much more critical to the future of the planet.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Review of the Chandler Candidacy is Not a Special Case - in the PC Party of Alberta All Candidates Are Reviewed.

I think it is important to point out some other relevant facts around the nomination process for determining candidates in the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta, especially for the vast majority of readers who are citizens and voters but not involved in political parties.

The Progressive Conservative Party Executive Committee and Party Leader’s review of Mr. Chandler’s nomination and determination of his suitability for candidacy is not unique to him. In the PC Party Constitution, all nominees for candidacy for the PC Party will go through the same review process that Mr. Chandler is going through.

The PC Party of Alberta is a membership driven organization, just like all other political parties and the various other non-profit voluntary sector organizations that exist in the province. The objectives of the PC Party are firstly “To promote and assist the interests and principles of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta.” Also “To promote and assist in nominating and supporting in an Provincial Election, official Progressive Conservative candidates, consistent always with the autonomy of the Constituency Associations.”

Clause 14(b) (vi) of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta says:
“A candidate who has been duly nominated shall be approved by the Leader and the Executive Committee and officially endorsed as a candidate of the Association if such approval is in the best interests of the Association.”

There is a dispute resolution process for resolving a range of issues surrounding candidate nominations, including a candidate’s qualification or disqualification before or after nomination.

In terms of fairness, Mr. Chandler is not a special case. The process for a nominee to be reviewed is clear and and I am sure the provisions of the Constitution will be followed for him and all other potential and aspiring candidates for the PC Party.

Stelmach Is Reviewing the Chandler Nomination...YES!!!

I am delighted to hear Premier Stelmach is reviewing the Craig Chandler nomination as a candidate for the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta – and that the criteria he is using is the Statement of Principles of the party. Media reports say Premier Stelmach will meet with the PC Party executive committee to discuss this matter very soon.

Good move Mr. Premier. Being leader of a political party and Premier of a province has overlapping elements but they are fundamentally two different things. Mr. Chandler's nomination is a constituency and party matter but it is up to the leader to accept him as a candidate.

The leader’s final decision on candidates reflects to citizens/voters what the PC party will accept as "tolerable" and that should not include intolerance. This decision by Ed Stelmach is sending a message to voters about the character of our political party and our fitness to govern.

I believe Mr. Chandler is inappropriate as a PC candidate and as an elected representative from the PC party given our pluralistic, secular, inclusive and diverse province. He has often expressed views that are very inconsistent with those Alberta values as well as the Statement of Principles of the PC Party of Alberta.

He seems to be more closely aligned with the new Wild Rose Party. They look like they could use his organizational talents as they chase enough signatures to qualify as a new provincial political party before the next election.

Mr. Chandler will undoubtedly respond and make arguments about respect for democracy and freedom of speech. But many of his past actions have been anything but respectful of those values. He has even been forced to publicly apologize for Human Rights abuses in the past.

Premier Stelmach is right. We Progressive Conservatives can’t tolerate intolerance – especially in our political representation. While the democratic process duly nominated Mr. Chandler in Calgary Egmont. A nomination decision is only a recommendation from a constituency to the party. It is not a final decision.

That final decision on the acceptability of a candidate is, and ought to be, with the leader who, after all, has to work with a group that becomes his team at the end of the day. The PC Party selects it leader on a one person one vote basis so we are assured the winner is the real choice of the party membership. Those votes are very personal and individual decisions – not based on some phoney delegated authority of special interests. Given that leadership selection process, Ed Stelmach, as our party leader, should be able to exercise his discretion in accepting or rejecting candidate nomination recommendations from constituency organizations.

By personally consulting with the party executive, Premier Stelmach has shown once again that he brings ability and wisdom to his position as party leader. Legally speaking, seeking advice from the party executive need not be done at all. There is a legislation that gives him a right, a party leader, to override the local nomination process. He can, by law, refuse to sign the papers that turns a nominee into a candidate.

I hope and expect the PC party executive will conclude that Mr. Chandler is not an acceptable candidate and they will support a move to reject his nomination in Calgary Egmont. Do not expect Mr. Chandler and his followers to go away quietly. It is not their style. I would not be surprised if legal actions were at least threatened by Mr. Chandler and his acolytes. But adherence to values of respect, inclusiveness and diversity should not be diminished by any such threats or intimidation tactics.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Did Alberta Try to Get Quebec to Change Policy on Kyoto by Offering "Billions of Industry" Money?

I have bought but not yet read William Marsden’s book “Stupid to the Last Drop” about the Alberta oil sands. I don’t expect to get to it until after Christmas but I may have to fast track my plans.

This CanWest news piece suggesting Guy Boutilier, when he was Alberta’s Minister of the Environment, may be enough to convince me to get into the book sooner. Apparently Mr. Boutiller tried in 2005 to influence the Quebec government to change its support for the Kyoto Accord in exchange for “billions of Alberta industry” dollars to help finance the Montreal Stock Exchange.

This is an interesting allegation given that Mr. Boutilier admits to writing the note and circumstances of the event. He berates Mr. Marsden for “sensationalizing something that is totally imaginative.” What was so imaginative about this ploy? Trying to buy Quebec loyalty and failing to do so is hardly imaginative.

Many past federal Liberal governments were masters at it and Chrétien was perhaps the biggest failure at it. Just look at Adscam for proof of that statement. Even the current Con government under Mr. Harper is playing the lets buy Quebec's loyalty card. He is into the “Quebec Nation” notion and has done some pretty serious federal spending in Quebec with the strategic advice of former Prime Minister Mulroney. Remember it was Mr. Mulroney who managed to get an impressive string of majority governments out of his application of this “imaginative” lets buy the Quebec loyalty tactic.

This is hardly an imaginative approach to nation building or cooperative federalism. It is nothing even close to the effective tag teaming Lougheed and Lévesque used to employ against Ottawa from time to time. Those events were marked by Alberta and Quebec sharing a mutual respect for the division of powers in the Canadian Constitution at a time when Ottawa was buying influence from all other provinces.

Hard to judge from what we know for sure about this event as to what Mr. Boutilier was really up to in offering billions of Alberta industry money to Quebec. On what basis Mr. Boutilier thinks he can offer billions of private industry money to Quebec in the first place is confusing enough. What was he thinking?
Claiming it was about being "imaginative" is not likely to pass any sniff test as to what his motivations really were.